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So I was sitting there, looking down at my counter, realizing that I probably had a good carrot or two of shavings just going to waste. (well, I'll compost it, but it's non-food at that point).

Is there any reason we peel carrots and don't just give them a good scrubbing? I mean, the scrubbing works for potatoes (so long as they're not green under the skin), and carrots grow in dirt, too. I don't think it's a pesticide issue, as we did it growing up, and I don't think we cared about pesticides back then.

I admit that sometimes there's odd crooks that might be harder to scrub dirt out of, but is there something fundamental that I'm missing here?

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I'm adding the [food-safety] tag, because even though this isn't specifically about food safety, questions along the lines of "must I peel this food before eating it?" are common food safety questions and I think this should be loosely linked to those. –  Aaronut Aug 12 '10 at 18:27
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13 Answers 13

up vote 25 down vote accepted

I find when cooked, the skin retains a bit of bitterness and toughness, so in desserts, juices or when shaved/julienned , I'm inclined to peel them. In fast salads, quick application, I usually don't bother.

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It it only when cooked? Michael's response seems to suggest it's in raw carrots, too. –  Joe Aug 12 '10 at 12:11
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@joe - indeed when raw as well however, I think it's more noticeable when the fruit is soft rather than crunchy. I find the bitterness acceptable in the raw state –  dassouki Aug 12 '10 at 13:16
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+1 The latest issue of Cook's Illustrated (June 2011, I think) did a taste test where they found it's much better tasting after being peeled. –  keithjgrant May 24 '11 at 21:48
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This depends on the carrot. A young carrot freshly pulled from the ground has no bitterness at all, it is even sweet. Old, woody carrots from the supermarket could be bitter, especially if the surface is treated. –  rumtscho Dec 16 '11 at 16:08
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I'd like to add that you'll get additional nutrients from the peel, same as with potatoes and some other vegetables.

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@Dave: I'll give you that, by appearances only, you're not losing much by peeling a carrot. However, according to this page - carrotmuseum.co.uk/nutrition.html - and this research paper - docs.google.com/… - you're ignoring phenolic compounds (antioxidants) that are more concentrated in the peel. –  Chad Aug 12 '10 at 4:14
    
I stand corrected. Nice find on the research paper. –  hobodave Aug 12 '10 at 4:39
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You're assuming that phenols actually improve human health. Their antioxidant effect is only visible in in vitro studies, and there is reason to suspect many are not absorbed by our bodies (with some exceptions: resveratrol, for instance) In short, no one really knows... :) –  Adam Shiemke Aug 12 '10 at 13:22
    
@Adam - Ah! Where's a nutritionist when you need one??? I love the back and forth and I'll agree that I don't even know the right answer. Maybe someone else does? –  Chad Aug 12 '10 at 14:51
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And you don't have to let your carrot peelings go to waste -- use them in making vegetable stock, along with bits from other vegetables. Mushroom stems, corn cobs, potato peels, etc. can all be used in stock as long as you strain it after cooking. (I keep large plastic bags in my freezer that hold vegetable trimmings and leftovers, and when the bag gets full, I'll make stock.)

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I do the same, and definitely include carrot shavings in my stock bag! –  stephennmcdonald Aug 12 '10 at 18:39
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What a great idea! I'm going to start doing this. –  Sobachatina Oct 15 '10 at 23:36
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This. A thousand times this. I also include chicken bones in my freezer stock...well, stock-pile. –  mikeTheLiar Dec 12 '12 at 0:52
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Even raw, in some carrots the peel will have slightly bitter or soapy taste. Less so with very fresh, young farmer's market or homegrown varieties. Taste a little bit and see if it needs peeling.

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I'm surprised most people didn't vote this one up ... it was actually a toss-up as to which one to mark as accepted ... I know exactly what you're talking about with the 'soapy' taste, but I suspect it's only objectionable to those of us who hate cilantro in large amounts, as it's pretty similar to me. –  Joe Oct 23 '12 at 20:30
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It's all a matter of aesthetics; peeled carrots are pretty carrots. I never peel mine unless the application calls for it (which is usually only when guests might mind the peel).

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To get the dirt off? I'm not sure if this answer is a joke or not. All of our carrots now are local. They're nobbly and dirty. Peeling seems the easiest way to clean them.

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You really aren't cleaning vegetables by peeling them as your blade is going to carry any pathogens on the surface with it as it peels. The only way to clean is under running water. –  sarge_smith Aug 12 '10 at 7:00
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@sarge, I disagree. My local carrots clearly have dirt / earth on them. Peeling clearly removes it. –  yossarian Aug 12 '10 at 12:49
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@sarge_smith Peeling gets the vast majority of the dirt off, and removes the little nooks and crannies it gets stuck in. A quick rinse is all that's required where a serious scrubbing would've been needed previously. –  ceejayoz Aug 12 '10 at 12:51
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if you rinse after peeling, you would remove any pathogens transferred to the surface. In addition to pathogens, there is also grit, which is really unpleasant to chew. When being lazy, I clean mine with a metal scrubby pad under running water: removes some peel and most of the dirt. –  Adam Shiemke Aug 12 '10 at 13:24
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I just didn't want somebody who didn't know any better to think that peeling was a substitute for washing. I agree that it makes it much easier and shorter. –  sarge_smith Aug 12 '10 at 22:21
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I scrub carrots with warm water and a brush, I usually don't peel them unless appearance is going to play a factor.

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It is done to make cleaning easier, remove the bitterness and improve the look of the carrot. Same type of reasons why people peel potatoes.

does not exactly relate to the question at hand. But for parsnips you are supposed to peel them because there is a compound that is a carcinogen in the peel. Similar to why you are not supposed to eat apple seeds.

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Some of my friends and I have allergic reactions to carrots if they are unpeeled or uncooked. I don't know why though. I usually peel them with thick washing gloves on, and then boil them for a bit.

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Interesting - a co-worker of mine gets an "itchy tongue" (he doesn't know any other way to describe it) from unpeeled carrots. Before him I had never heard of that, I wonder if it's the same thing you experience. –  stephennmcdonald Aug 12 '10 at 18:40
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I think it's just for appearance. There's no need to peel them. I often just rinse one well and have it as a snack. The outside of a carrot can look pretty gnarly, peeling it exposes that bright orange moist inner part.

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I found that when baking, if you don't peel the carrots first they turn green.

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I learned in botany class that most of the vitamins are in the skin, so I've been scrubbing them, but peeling seems easier. Does anyone have a good suggetion for a veggie scrubber - better than blue scotch-brite sponges?

Q&A; Peels and Vitamins By C. CLAIBORNE RAY, NY Times Published: March 11, 2003

Q. I have read serious assertions that all the nutrition of carrots is in the peel, and so you shouldn't peel them. Is this true? What about other vegetables?

A. Plenty of nutritional value is left in a peeled carrot, said Dr. Stephen Reiners, associate professor of horticulture at Cornell's New York State Agriculture Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., who works with root vegetables.

The deep orange color of a carrot indicates the presence of beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, he said, ''and when you peel the carrot, it is just as orange when you take off the outer layer.''

As for other similar vegetables, he said, ''if it is the same color throughout, you are getting the same nutrition with a peeled vegetable.''

The big exception is the potato, where there is a striking difference between peel and flesh. ''There is a lot of nutrition in the skin,'' Dr. Reiners said, ''but this is not to say the rest of the potato is without nutritional value.'' C. CLAIBORNE RAY

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I dedicate a fingernail brush for scrubbing vegetables and throw it in the dishwasher between uses. –  Jeff Axelrod Mar 12 '13 at 4:16
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I also was wondering about this question and I googled it and found this. I normally peel some veggies, but recently I don´t, as I think it´s silly, and if the food is organic, the peel is really good, full of vitamins and no pesticides and similar. Today I cooked some chips with their peel on, I didn't even scrub them, only a little wash. They were very nice.

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