What’s Up Doc? Carrot Top Pesto

Carrot top pesto is an awesome way to use produce that is typically thrown away.


I love using things that would otherwise be wasted and carrot tops are one of those things. Oftentimes you don’t even get an opportunity to use them as the greens usually get cut off before being sold at the grocer. But you can find carrots with the tops still on them at some grocery stores, farmers markets, and if you grow them yourself.

Not Poisonous!

I used to think carrot tops were poisonous, and I’m not alone in that thought. About ten years ago the New York Times published an article titled, The Toxic Salad, about carrot greens, and the title was so sensational that people took from just reading the title that carrot tops were toxic. The article really focused on the dangers of other plants in the same family as carrots, Apiaceae, that are toxic carrot mimickers in your yard and in the wilderness, like poison hemlock, wild parsnip, cow parsnip, fools parsley, and giant hogweed. Domestic carrot greens from your farmers market, grocer, or that you’ve sowed in your garden are not poisonous and are safe to eat. I would not recommend foraging for and eating wild carrots unless you are specifically trained to do so, as eating the wrong thing can have dire, even fatal consequences.

Health Benefits of Carrot Tops

Photo by Heather Gill on Unsplash

Carrot tops are peppery flavor and slightly bitter, similar to arugula or parsley.  The bitterness comes from alkaloids, a natural plant defense mechanism, similar to spinach, arugala, kale, etc. The tops are a common market item in Europe and commonly used in French cooking in soups, quiches, pesto, omelettes, and more.

Like other greens, they are packed with chlorophyll, an excellent source of magnesium. They’re also full of potassium, and vitamin K. Per cup, carrot greens contain:

  • 88 calories
  • 7 g carbohydrates
  • 2 g dietary fiber
  • 0 sugar or fat
  • 1 g Protein
  • 250 mg Potassium
  • 110% daily requirement of Vitamin A
  • 10% daily requirement of Vitamin C

As with other greens, it’s best to purchase organic carrot tops to avoid pesticides and other sprays. Pick greens that are fresh and green, not limp. In fact, you should buy carrots with the tops on them because you can see just how fresh the vegetable is by the condition of the greens. According to Cooks Illustrated, attached to the carrot, greens can stay fresh-looking for up to 3 weeks, which seems like an awfully long time to me. However, the greens do pull moisture from the carrot root, which is why most people remove the greens from carrots to keep carrots fresh and crisp in storage. Separate from the root, carrot tops quickly wilt, so store them separately in a damp towel for no longer than a day.

Making Oil-Free Pesto

I used to think oil was essential to making pesto, but that’s just not the case. Oil simply thins out the processed veggies and nuts, turning something very healthy into something loaded with fat and calories! You can achieve the same this result with vegetable stock or even water. Cheese is also completely unnecessary, and you can get a cheesy flavor without it by using nutritional yeast.

Here’s how to make oil-free carrot top pesto:

Roughly chop the carrot tops and add them along with all of the pesto ingredients except the stock/water to a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Run the processor until everything is finely chopped.

Finely chop the carrot top pesto ingredients before stock or water is added.

Put the lid back on and while running, drizzle in some of the stock or water and blend until your pesto has your desired consistency.

Creamy, earthy pesto made from the tops of these carrots.

Use this same technique for making other oil-free pesto, including basil, argula, garlic scape, and more. When making sun-dried tomato pesto, simply reserve the water you soaked the dried tomatoes in and use during the final blending.

Buying carrots with the tops is a great way to know you are getting the freshest of carrots. Plus, they provide additional produce, something that is often just cut off and wasted at the market. Help reduce food waste and add more leafy greens to your diet by eating carrot tops. I think you’ll like them!

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5 from 1 vote

Carrot Top Pesto

This is a great way to use something that would otherwise be wasted. Carrot tops are full of beneficial potassium, vitamins C and K, calcium, and magnesium, and flavor!
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Whole Food Plant Based, Zero Waste
Keyword carrot tops, Dip, pesto, Scraps

Ingredients

  • green tops from 6 carrots about 1½ cups, well-washed and patted dry
  • a few basil leaves and stems if desired
  • ½ cup pine nuts or other nuts or seeds you like
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • ½ cup vegetable stock or water

Instructions

  • Cut the carrot tops into 1-2 inch pieces, including the stem.
  • Place tops in a food processor fitted with the S-blade along with the nuts, garlic, basil (if using), nutritional yeast, salt and pepper.
  • Start the processor, stop and scrape down sides as needed, until finely chopped.
  • While running, start pouring in the vegetable stock in a slow stream until the pesto is your desired consistency.
  • Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

Notes

Serve with crusty bread or mix with cooked pasta. Wonderful on sandwiches, on grilled vegetables, in Pesto Palmiers, or as a sauce on pizza!
Freezes beautifully. Put into ice cube trays and freeze. Store frozen cubes in containers and thaw when desired.

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