What you see: A carrot that’s split
What it is: The carrot literally cracked under pressure
Eat or toss: Eat! It’s perfectly fine.
Carrots, with their hard tissue and relatively long shelf life, may seem like sturdy and robust veggies. And of course, they are. But the rigid veggies have a weakness: they are prone to cracking.
The culprit is their high turgor pressure, or the water very densely packed into their cells. All that water makes them hard and crisp, but also more fragile when their high-pressure balance is disrupted. Consider how a very full water balloon busts open much more easily than a partially filled one. Especially when you drop it on your brother's head.
If carrots take in too much water while they’re growing, that can push the pressure over the edge, resulting in a crack. If they’re jostled too much during harvest and processing, that can also trigger a crack. Drying out after harvest can lead to cracking, as can certain temperatures, fertilizers and even soil conditions. Some types of carrots are also simply more prone to cracking.
“There’s no negative side to it other than maybe it’s unattractive,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison horticulturist Irwin Goldman. “There’s nothing wrong with the carrot.”
You will, however, just want to make sure any cracked carrots are clean. The freshly harvested carrots at right may have some dirt stuck in the cracks (and thank you to Daniel Yoder of Johnny's Selected Seeds for providing the photo!).
For the curious, a split carrot offers a peek into its inner workings. Look closely and you may see that a central core remains intact, while the outer layer split. At the center is the xylem, responsible for delivering water and nutrients from the soil to the rest of the plant. Surrounding it, and cracked, is the phloem, which distributes sugars from the leaves to the root. The xylem isn’t immune to cracking; it’s just insulated by the phloem and so is less likely to crack.
Irwin Goldman. Horticulture professor. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Factors Affecting Carrot Cracking. Carrot Country Fall 2005. T.K. Hartz. Department of Vegetable Crops. University of California
Does a Crack in a Carrot Spell Ruin for the Root Vegetable? C. Claiborne Ray. The New York Times. Feb. 1, 2016
Common Carrot Questions and Answers. The Carrot Museum.
Daniel Yoder. Research Technician. Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
Carrots may act all hard and snappy, but the truth is that they very easily crack.