Why Are Your Carrots Growing Hairs?

Whether you harvest carrots at home or purchase them from a local farmer or market, you may have noticed that some have white strings that look like hairs growing off of them. These hairs look unsightly and may even make your carrots seem unappetizing. The question is, what’s causing them to develop?

Your carrots are growing hairs because they’re looking for moisture. Carrots are root vegetables, so they crave nutrients even after being picked. The small strings that resemble hairs are feeder roots searching for water.

Keep reading to explore the following:

  • The reasons carrot roots develop during the growing process and why they continue to sprout even after the carrots have been picked
  • Whether these hairs are safe to eat
  • How to keep your carrots from growing hairs
  • How to prevent excess feeder roots from growing during the early development stages of the seeds

Reasons Your Carrots Are Growing Hairs

So, you’ve noticed your carrots growing hair-like strings. Is that normal? Should you be worried? Surprisingly, it’s normal for carrots to grow hairs.

Carrots Grow Hairs To Access Water From the Soil

The first instance is when harvesting the carrots yourself. You may notice that as your carrots develop, fine roots resembling hairs begin to appear on the ends of the vegetables. 

These feeder roots grow because they increase the surface area of the carrot’s root system. They’re the carrot’s primary source of nutrients in the soil, particularly for the varieties with shallower roots and have a hard time getting moisture out of the ground.

The main root of the carrot is what you typically think of when you picture a carrot—the orange, crunchy stalk that needs to be pulled out of the earth in order to be consumed. It has a large mass but a small surface area in comparison.

If there’s an overabundance of water in the soil, the main root of the carrot can get the moisture it needs to thrive. However, most of the time, that isn’t the case, and the plant needs to get its water in a different way.

That’s where the feeder roots come into play. Carrots will often produce large amounts of the small, stringy roots to help access all of the available water in the soil, helping them grow.

Carrots Look for Moisture Even When Off the Ground

You’re also likely to see hairs coming out of carrots after you’ve removed the vegetables from the ground. These hairs also grow when exposed to the air for an extended period. 

Even after being pulled out of the garden, these root vegetables will keep searching for the moisture they could once get from the soil.

While sitting in your refrigerator or pantry, these carrots will crave water; thus, they grow new feeder roots to try and access any nutrients they can find. 

Is It Safe To Eat Hairy Carrots?

It is safe to eat hairy carrots as long as they are not slimy. Note that the strings growing off of the carrots are only roots. These roots keep growing when the carrots are searching for any moisture they can find to help them thrive.

Before eating carrots with hairs, consider doing the following:

Check if the Carrots Are Slimy or Moldy

Before eating your carrots, check if they have mold. If the carrots feel slimy, they’re probably past the point of being edible. You can also sniff the carrots to see if they smell fresh. If they smell funny, you may want to skip that batch.

If the carrots don’t have any mold growing on them or any slimy coating, they should be fine to eat. 

Remove the Carrot Hairs 

Carrot hairs make your carrots look unappetizing, so you’ll want to remove them before cooking.

Simply peel off the outer layer of the carrot skin so that the roots come off with it. You may have to peel a few layers in some areas if the roots grow very deep; otherwise, this method is pretty simple.

Your other option is to scrub off the strings using a vegetable brush. This method is beneficial if you don’t want to lose a lot of the fresh carrot by peeling it away, although it’ll take a bit more muscle to remove all the roots. The hairs often grow in bunches on the carrot’s stalk, so they can target the specific areas they’re developing in. 

How To Store Carrots To Avoid Sprouting

Whether you purchase your carrots at the store or harvest them yourself, you must know how to store them. That way, they don’t begin to produce hairs while waiting to be consumed.

Following one of these options is especially crucial if you buy or grow carrots in bulk, as they’ll be sitting around for an extended period.

Refrigerate the Carrots

The first step you can take is refrigerating the carrots as soon as you’ve picked or bought them. Once you’ve removed any roots that may have already been growing on them, the best way to prepare them is to remove the leafy green that comes out of the center of the vegetable. 

Taking that portion out before storing it will deprive the carrots of moisture as time goes on. Doing this might not seem like it would be beneficial since the roots grow in the first place to try to find water. However, taking the greens out right from the start will help them have an easier time adjusting to not having access to water.

Once you’ve removed the greens, place the carrots in an air-tight container or a bag with the air completely squeezed out. Taking away the oxygen will keep additional moisture away and prevent the carrots from attempting to grow new roots. 

Freeze the Carrots

If you’re not planning to eat the carrots anytime soon, consider freezing them. The cold will shock the plants’ root system, so they don’t produce hairs before you eat them. 

The best way to prepare your carrots is to blanch them before placing them in the freezer. The blanching process involves placing the vegetables in boiling water, cooking them for a couple of minutes, then draining them and putting them into a bowl of ice water. 

The transfer from hot water to cold will help preserve the nutrients that can be lost when produce is placed in the freezer. Keeping their nutrients will help prevent additional hairs from sprouting when the carrots are removed from the freezer and thawed.

Pickle the Carrots

The third method to keep feeder roots from growing on your fresh carrots is to pickle them. You’ll only want to use this tactic if you don’t want your carrots to keep their original flavor, as the pickling process will change how they taste compared to refrigerating or freezing them. 

Allowing your carrots to soak up the vinegar, salt, and spices in the pickle juice will give them a new flavor and also help to slow down microbial growth. Keeping the carrots in canned jars with the liquid will keep them from becoming moldy or slimy too quickly and prevent bunches of hairs from popping up.

How To Prevent Hairs From Growing

If you harvest carrots, you may notice your plants growing an excess amount of feeder roots while still in the ground. While this is not necessarily negative, you can prevent it with a couple of easy steps. 

Ensure Your Soil Has Good Water Retention

The main precaution you’ll want to take is ensuring that the soil the carrots are developing in has good water retention. If the primary roots of the carrots have plenty of access to water, they won’t feel the need to produce more small strings. 

Make Sure Your Soil Is Full of Moisture

You can keep your soil full of moisture by mixing compost into it before planting and applying a thick layer of mulch made from straw or hay on top of the crops. 

These additions will help keep water in the soil for an extended period, and the carrots won’t search for access to more moisture and nutrients. 

Final Thoughts

Although roots growing out of your carrots may be a nuisance, they’re not dangerous. Eating hairy carrots won’t harm you or anyone who eats them.

Before eating the carrots, ensure your carrots aren’t slimy or moldy. Also, don’t forget to remove the hairs before eating the carrots. If you aren’t eating your carrots soon, consider freezing them.

You can read my in-depth guide on how to harvest and store your fruits and vegetables here: How to Harvest and Store Your Fruits and Vegetables

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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