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Carrot Top Pesto

From the book Roots by

Culinate editor’s note: We tested this recipe because we were curious — and admittedly a little skeptical: would it really be as good as the headnote makes it sound? Alas, we were pleasantly surprised. No, bowled over. We served the pesto on spaghetti, but we’ll be trying the other uses Diane Morgan suggests, too. A winner!

Introduction

I almost always buy fresh carrots with their feathery green tops attached. In the past, I would invariably cut the tops off and send them to the compost bin. Honestly, it never occurred to me that they were edible. But the tops of other root vegetables are edible, so why wouldn’t carrot tops be edible, too?

One day I blanched the leaves, puréed them with a little olive oil, and then used the purée as a gorgeous green accent sauce for fish, much in the same way I use basil oil. My next idea was to make pesto, trading out the basil for carrot tops, which proved an amazing alternative. This recipe is an absolute keeper, and it’s satisfying to make use of the whole plant.

I serve this as a dip with crudités, and often add a dollop on top of bruschetta that has been smeared with fresh goat cheese. It’s also perfect simply tossed with pasta.

Ingredients

1 cup (20 grams) lightly packed carrot leaves (stems removed)
6 Tbsp. (90 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove
¼ tsp. kosher or fine sea salt
3 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted (see Note)
¼ cup (30 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

Steps

  1. In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, and salt, and process until finely minced. Add the pine nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the Parmesan and pulse just until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Notes

Toasting pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds brings out their flavor. Spread the nuts or seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, place in a preheated 350-degree oven, and toast until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the nut or seed.

Alternatively, nuts and seeds can be browned in a microwave. Spread in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power, stopping to stir once or twice, until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Watch them closely so they don’t burn.

This content is from the book Roots by Diane Morgan.

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15% recommend this recipe
1. by anonymous on Oct 4, 2012 at 1:15 PM PDT

You should be careful with eating carrot tops as they contain alkaloids. The NYT article “The Toxic Salad” has more details

http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/the-toxic-salad/

2. by Kim on Oct 5, 2012 at 8:56 AM PDT

Thanks for the warning and the link, anonymous. Harold McGee doesn't find any problem eating carrot tops, however. Has anyone reading this had problems eating them? Let us know!

3. by Eliza Bennett on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:52 AM PDT

Been making soup from them for years. No health problems have resulted.

4. by vintagejenta on Oct 7, 2012 at 6:12 PM PDT

I’m curious to know what the flavor is. I find the smell of carrot tops a bit abrasive. Does blanching them reduce that?

5. by Kim on Oct 8, 2012 at 10:54 AM PDT

Sorry, vintagejenta, we didn’t blanch the carrot tops so we can’t answer your question. We can say that the Carrot Top Pesto wasn’t sharp-tasting; it was full-flavored though (although I’m sure the cheese, garlic, olive oil, etc. help with that).

6. by Caroline Cummins on Oct 9, 2012 at 1:23 PM PDT

I make Ivy Manning’s all-of-the-carrot salad frequently, and it’s always been great. But then, it only calls for a cup of fresh carrot tops.

7. by anonymous on Apr 29, 2013 at 7:23 PM PDT

I am currently harvesting my carrots and was looking for recipes for my carrot greens when I stubled across this recipe.
I want to ask you, can you freeze the pesto?

8. by Caroline Cummins on Apr 30, 2013 at 11:14 AM PDT

Anonymous: You can freeze any pesto. Some mavens think you should leave out the cheese, adding it only after the pesto has been defrosted. Melissa Clark, however, thinks cheese in the freezer is fine, and so do I.

Pretty much everybody thinks you should use ice-cube trays for freezing the pesto in manageable cubes. If you do that, you’ll probably want to have a couple of trays dedicated to pesto-freezing, as pesto-flavored ice cubes aren’t usually appealing.

9. by anonymous on May 11, 2013 at 12:44 PM PDT

Kosher salt?! Why even mention religious ingredients? Why not Hindu olive oil, pagan carrots or even church of the flying spaghetti monster pine nuts.

10. by Sharon Lunden on Jun 22, 2013 at 11:24 AM PDT

Oh, my, this is SO good! I joined a CSA this year and have made it my goal to waste nothing, so have been trolling the web looking for good ideas. I just devoured a good portion of baby carrots dipped in this wonderful pesto. Thank you for sharing!!

11. by Bibliovore on May 16, 2014 at 6:25 AM PDT

Belatedly, to last year’s May 11 anonymous: Kosher salt is not a religious ingredient, and is not, in fact, usually certified as kosher. It simply has much larger grains than typical table salt and is usually additive-free. It got its name because it’s the kind usually used for making meat kosher-certifiable.

This recipe sounds terrific. I’m growing my own carrots for the first time this year, and I look forward to making this when my new sprouts are big enough. :)

12. by Beverly O'Brien on Jun 23, 2014 at 2:00 PM PDT

I love carrot top pesto and I’ve also made it with some basil, like half a bunch (maybe 1/2 cup packed), and it was delicious both ways. I don’t eat cheese and replaced the cheese with a bit of light colored miso and some nutritional yeast, but I tasted it before those two additions and it was already awesome!

No ill effects here from eating carrot tops use them smoothies too, but just listen to your body. Many Indian recipes use them sauteed with spices and they are delish that way too! Good luck and health all!

13. by anonymous on Jun 30, 2014 at 7:53 PM PDT

Delicious! Didn’t have pine nuts, so I used pecans instead and it still came out great. Don’t waste those carrot tops!

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