Pretty much all of us have had food go bad at some point. We’ve accidentally left stuff in our cars, or on the kitchen counter, or something might have rolled under the table and found days (weeks?) later. But do carrots go bad if left out? After all, they’re pretty hardy root vegetables, right? Well, let’s find out just how long they can handle a bit of neglect.
Do Carrots Go Bad if Left Out? Or Do They Need Refrigeration?
Let’s start this out by saying that pretty much anything goes bad if it’s left out. The exception to this seems to be certain terrifying chain restaurant burgers, but we’re not even going to think about those. Ew ew ew.
Okay, back to the carrots.
These roots will go mushy and gross if they’re not refrigerated, but that can take a while. Their decomposition will also be influenced by the conditions in which they’re stored. For example, if you keep carrots in a plastic bag in the pantry, they’ll rot pretty quickly. This is because the plastic will help contain moisture, which speeds the decomposition cycle.
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You can store a big plastic bag of carrots in the cupboard for two to three days. After that, the moisture levels will start to make them a bit hairy. This is basically the carrot creating very fine rootlets in response to a moist environment. Basically, it’s saying “ooh, these are ideal conditions to propagate myself!” So it sends out teensy roots in the hope of finding nutrients around itself. At this point, you’ll probably notice fresh greenery sprouting out the top too.
If your carrots are getting hairy, they’re still edible. Just scrub or peel off the stringy bits, and eat them raw or cooked. If you like, you can also cut the tops off and set them in water. The green carrot tops will re-grow, and you can eat those like parsley.
Root Cellar Conditions are Fine
Alternatively, if you store carrots out of the bag in a root cellar environment, that’s a totally different story.
Carrots that are taken out of their plastic bags and stored in a cool, dry place will basically go into stasis. This is like refrigerating them, basically. In fact, the best way to store carrots without a fridge is in sand or straw. This wicks moisture away from the roots so they don’t rot, while also maintaining a constant, cool temperature all around them.
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The worst way to store carrots would be in the plastic bag, in a warm cupboard in your kitchen. They’ll go bad really quickly.
Whether you’re planning to store them in the fridge or a cold pantry, try to only buy as many as you’ll eat in a week or two. If you’re not getting through them as quickly as expected, prep them to freeze instead. It only takes about half an hour to chop these and pop them into freezer bags. Then you can just pop them into soups, stews, or the juicer as needed, without any waste.
What About Baby Carrots?
You know how baby carrots come packaged in plastic bags full of liquid? This is because they don’t have their skins intact, and need external moisture so they don’t dry out. Unfortunately, that liquid only keeps them juicy and fresh if refrigerated. If a bag of baby carrots is left out for a couple of days, they’ll go sludgy faster than you can blink.
If your baby carrots just have a slight white flush on them, they’re okay. They’ve just aged a bit and started to dry out. If they’re covered with a slimy goo, that’s a different story. They’re still salvageable, but you should wash them with a scrub brush and peel off the outermost layer. Then cook them, or use them to make carrot bread or muffins or cake or something. Ultimately, you should use your packaged baby carrots within two weeks, and keep them refrigerated.
As you can see, the answer to whether carrots go bad if left out is “yes”. Eventually they do. It all depends on where you’ve left them, and for how long.