Taste Test - Carrots: Organic v Non-organic

  • The List
  • 18 September 2008

From top left to bottom right: Corner shop, Supermarket non-local, Supermarket 'local', Supermarket organic, Local organic from Phantassie, Local organic from Stair Organics.

Corner shop ●●●

After potatoes, carrots are our most consumed vegetable; they are also a stalwart of the organic vegetable box scheme, so we decided to see what difference we could find locally available carrots. These ones came from a decent dedicated local greengrocer. Described as ‘English’ but not organic, they’re sold loose and cleaned. The flavour is middle of the road, and there’s some sweetness there, but not lots.

Supermarket non-local ●●

The supermarket we visited had three different types of carrots for sale, including baby carrots from Holland, which were sold in plastic trays and clingfilm. They were noticeably sweeter, as you would expect for baby veg, as well as more expensive, though in truth the flavour didn’t last for long. Still nothing to get our taste panel, which included some of the chefs from David Bann’s Vegetarian Restaurant, anything close to excited.

Supermarket ‘local’ ●●

78p/kg, on offer at 50p/kg
There are Saltires galore at the point of sale to ensure we’re aware of the origin and carrots grow well in Scotland, so it’s a bit odd to trumpet what would seem an agricultural assumption. They’re moist and crunchy but the flavour is pretty weak and there’s very little sweetness. This is close to peak season for carrots, though all the carrots we found for sale seemed fresh enough.

Supermarket organic ●●●

Grown in Scotland, there wasn’t a noticeable boost in sweetness or flavour. The first hints that the taste advantage in the organic choices would be negligible, while the sharper flavour could be explained by the tougher skin. Most nutritional experts agree that peeling carrots strips them of some of their goodness but doesn’t necessarily remove pesticide residue, something organic varieties should be completely free from.

Local organic from Phantassie ●●●

East Linton, East Lothian (www.phantassie.co.uk), £1.20/kg at Edinburgh farmers’ market or as part of a box scheme to the Edinburgh area
These had an earthier taste, but in the end none of the carrots delivered particularly outstanding flavour. These certainly raise questions about the freshness that a short food chain offers and whther organic actually means tastier.

Local organic from Stair Organics ●●●●

Tarbolton, Ayrshire (www.organicgrowing.com), £1.94/kg online or as part of box scheme to the Glasgow area
We washed all our carrots before tasting, but didn’t conduct nutritional analysis, which is one area in which small organic growers feel they have an advantage. These had less orange colour than the others, though they did have the most distinctive and intriguing flavour.

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