Cooking with the tops of carrots?
This Carrot Top Pesto recipe was originally printed in my cookbook, Romancing the Stove: the unabridged guide to aphrodisiac foods. It’s probably one of my favorites in the book because of it’s versatility and the fact that it features an ingredient most people just throw away.
However I encourage you to start cooking with them rather than simply discarding your carrot tops. The tops of carrots aren’t something we typically incorporate into cooking. But they are as nutritious as many other greens and have a unique, herbal flavor. The flavor is a touch bitter, in the same way parsley is bitter. But it was for that reason that carrot greens once earned a reputation as poisonous.
The health benefits of Carrot Top Pesto
Don’t worry. Carrot tops are perfectly safe to eat. In fact, they a good source of potassium, which is vital to sexual health. They also happen to contain both calcium and vitamin K, which are linked with bone health. I’ve taken to cooking with them, not just in my carrot top pesto. But I also incorporate these somewhat biting greens into soups and stir fries, almost they way I would spinach, except that they pack a more flavorful punch. (I also blend them into fruit smoothies, but don’t tell my kids that!)
I do recommend buying organic carrots, if you plan on using the greens. Since most farmers don’t expect customers to eat the greens, conventionally grown carrot tops can come with a lot of unwanted pesticides.
If you use a good blender or food processor, you can whip up a batch of Carrot Top Pesto in a flash. Although I recommend it as a topping for your favorite pasta, it also works as a dip, sandwich spread, pizza or bruschetta topping.
Love cooking with carrot tops? Try my recipe for Pasta with Sweet Corn and Carrot Greens.
This simple pesto recipe features an ingredient typically discarded by most home cooks. To be on the safe side, use the greens from organic carrots in this recipe.
- 1/4 cup unsalted walnuts
- 1 tbsp + 1/4 c olive oil
- 1 tbsp sweet onion roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic roughly chopped
- 1 bunch carrot tops thoroughly washed and roughly chopped*
- smoked salt to taste
- black pepper optional
- 1 lb whole wheat linguine
- Toast walnuts in pan or oven until golden. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions in the pan until soft. Add garlic and saute an additional minute before stirring in the carrot tops and a pinch of smoked salt. Cook until carrot tops wilt, about 1 minute.
- Transfer carrot top mixture to a blender, adding toasted walnuts and 1 tbsp water. Blend, adding olive oil in a slow stream until mixture becomes a coarse paste (the texture of pesto). You may not need all the olive oil or you may need additional.
- Season with additional smoked salt to taste. If you like a little heat, try adding in a touch of freshly ground black pepper. Set aside while you prepare the pasta.
- Make pasta according to package instructions, cooking to al dente.
- Drain pasta and toss with the pesto. Serve immediately. Alternatively, serve the pesto at room temperature as a dipping sauce or refrigerate and use as a salad dressing.
Carrots are generally sold with their tops still attached at farmers’ markets and produce stands. Although many grocery stores remove the tops and seal the carrots in plastic bags before sale, Whole Foods and other natural foods grocers often sell the root vegetables in their natural glory.
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