Root vegetables can be truly miraculous things. You can crisp them up if they’ve gone wilty by soaking them in water, and re-grow their tops by placing them in a shallow water dish too. But do carrots absorb salt as well as water? Keep reading and you’ll find out!
Do Carrots Absorb Salt or Not?
They do! And we’ll tell you why.
Remember that article of ours about how carrots absorb water? Well, if that water just happens to be salty, then the carrots will absorb that salt along with the water they’re immersed in. The same goes for sugar water, for that matter. You can use this technique to add additional sweetness to carrots that are a bit “meh” because they’ve been harvested at the wrong time.
Read More Here: Do Carrots Absorb Water?
There is a difference, of course.
Whereas carrots will crisp up beautifully in fresh water, they’ll shrivel up like mummies in heavily salted water. This is because the salt in the water draws all the moisture out of the carrots! The water in the carrots leaves in favor of hanging out with the salt water surrounding it, via the process known as osmosis.
Carrots stay firm and crispy (also known as being “turgid”) because of all that glorious water contained in their cells. When that water exits stage left, that firmness disappears right along with it.
One exception to this rule is if you end up pickling carrots in a salted mixture of water and vinegar. The water content in that solution is sufficient for keeping the turgidity intact instead of shriveling the roots.
*Note: If you like the flavor of salty-sweet carrots, try making vegan lox! You’ll marinate carrots for a few days, then slow roast them with a lot of salt for several hours until they’re super tender.
Try This Experiment:
Get your science hat on and do an experiment with three carrots, and three jars of water.
Fill one jar with plain water. In the second, dissolve a couple of tablespoons of sugar in hot water, and fill the rest up with plain, cold water. And in the third, repeat the same process as you did with jar #2, but use salt instead of sugar. Remember to label these jars well so you know which contains what.
Place a carrot into each jar, and keep them on the counter for three to five days. It’s best if you choose carrots that can be completely immersed in the liquid, rather than having bits sticking out. Trim them if you need to, but leave the peels intact.
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After that time period has elapsed, remove the carrots, cut them into a few pieces, and taste them.
The carrot immersed in plain water should have a neutral, “normal” flavor, but significant crispness. A similar thing will happen with the sugary water, only that root might taste a bit sweeter than the first. As for the salt water carrot… well. You could just try the experiment to discover this for yourself, but we can offer you a spoiler, if you like.
(Here’s the spoiler: it’ll be withered and salty. Big surprise there, huh?)
Reduce Salt in Dishes by Adding Carrots
Did you know that you can desalinate overly salty dishes by adding root vegetables to them?
Just about all of us have been a bit overenthusiastic with the salt while cooking, at some point or another. This can happen if we get distracted for a moment, or if the cap comes off the salt shaker while we’re adding seasonings. Regardless of how it happened, it happened. Sometimes, the dish can be salvaged by rinsing off the excess salt, but that isn’t really an option if you’re making a soup, stew, or curry.
This is where carrots come in.
Since they absorb salt so readily, and have a sweet, mellow flavor, they can reduce the overall saltiness from the dish. Furthermore, they’ll add extra moisture and sweetness so your face doesn’t pucker up completely as you eat. Just slice or chop them and add them while the dish is simmering. You’ll need to be sure to add liquid to the dish, if it isn’t already quite wet. This is because the water is a carrier for the salt, and is required for the carrots to absorb the salt properly.
Let this cook for at least half an hour, then adjust to taste again. If it’s still too salty, you can pour out some of the liquid and add more water, or temper it further with neutral to sweet liquid like coconut cream or oat milk.
Keep this in mind the next time you add a bit too much salt to whatever you’re cooking! The same trick works with beets, celeriac, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash as well.