For years I have bought carrots with the leafy tops attached. The freshness of the greens are an indicator of how fresh the carrots are. Make sense, right? Wilted, yellowed greens means “been hanging out too long”, hence the practice of cutting them off and packaging them in plastic bags or whittling them into bite size, tricking you into thinking they are the baby variety. There is a huge difference in taste. Did you ever consume a carrot pulled straight from the garden? Giant wow factor! Freshness is the key to the bright flavor that screams, “eat more” as opposed to the dull woody syndrome often found in the supermarket variety.
That said, I admit I have until recently, always removed the feathery green tops and sent them directly to the compost bin. It had never occurred to me that they were edible until I saw a celebrity chef use it as garnish and then I came across this recipe on Facebook. Not sure why I was skeptical since I have eaten the greens from other root vegetables such as, beets, radishes and turnips so why not carrots? So I tasted them and found they have a taste similar to parsley. Excited about the no waste factor, I made this pesto and am happy to report it is an amazing alternative to the traditional basil or parsley. I have long said you can make pesto out of almost anything but this is truly a new discovery.
My ten-year old granddaughter loves making (and eating) pesto. She is fond of saying, “it’s easy, just five ingredients.” This is true, just five plus the salt. It is easy. Here it is.
CARROT TOP PESTO Makes 2/3 c
Recipe From Roots by Diane Morgan
1c (20 grams) lightly packed leaves from carrot tops
6T (90 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic
¼ t kosher or fine sea salt
3T pine nuts, toasted
¼ c (30 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
- In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, salt and pine nuts. Process until finely minced.
- Add the Parmesan and pulse until combined.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Use immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.
Jeanne’s notes: Pesto freezes well. Place in an ice-cube tray and freeze, place cubes in a freezer bag and use later in soups or stews.
I toast all the nuts I use prior to using in recipes. This can be done on top of the stove by placing them in a single layer in a skillet over medium heat, stir occasionally. Remove from heat and place them on a cool plate as soon as they begin to color and become fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. They go quickly once they start.
This can also be done on the oven. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a 350 degree oven and toast until fragrant and lightly browned, 5-20 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool on a plate.
This can be served like any other pesto, on bruschetta, as pictured, with crudite as a dip, dressing for pasta or in soups, stews and sauces for an extra punch of flavor. I have put this in my recipe file as a keeper for sure. I urge you to start buying carrots with their tops as you will see there is a noticeable difference in freshness which translates to flavor. And who knew there is the extra bonus of the tops? Want more ways to incorporate them into your cooking repertoire or just additional information on carrots? You will find out more than you ever imagined on the website of the World Carrot Museum. Again, who knew?
I am on a mission to use these greens in as many ways possible. I may have to plant some in the garden this Spring. Mom always said, “eat your carrots, they are good for your eyes.” Have you used them or heard of other creative uses? We would all be so happy if you would share.