Carrot tops are vegetables too, a farmers’ market revelation.

By Jillian Bernardini - Aug 09, 2013 - 02:46 PM
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Running a few errands the other day, I make a quick pit stop at the farmers' market in Somerville.  The fridge, countertops, and produce bowl have been vacant all week and weekend from our wedding trip to NJ.  I thought it'd be nice to restock, so John and I could have some fun and fresh meals throughout the week.  

Yep, I'm trying to cut back on the ice cream and go for the local peaches, tomatoes, and root veggies for my late night snacking addictions.  Fortunately, I came across a beauty of a carrot bunch, all different colors, with these wonderfully bushy, vibrant leafy tops.  

Tallying up my produce bounty, the farmer asks, "Do you want to keep the tops for these carrots?"  Slightly nervous to respond, I blurt out, "Yes!"  I mean why not, right?  It's part of the carrot, and they seem so much more fun to flaunt out of my produce bag as I frolic along the sidewalk with my seasonal treats.

carrot top pesto

Staring at the carrots, the carrot tops staring back at me, they smelled so sweet, yet so earthy at the same Italian roots kicked in and, bam, pesto it is.  And luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand: lemons, olive oil, walnuts, Parmigiano Reggiano, and ample amounts of black pepper and sea salt.  

Attempting to keep the color, blanching the fern-like tops is essential for maintaining the lovely natural green hue.  A quick taste, and wow, what a great way to cook "nose to tail" so to speak, but with vegetables!  Using radish greens in the past in a quick saute, I never thought to utilize actual tops of the carrots.  

To enhance that vegetable goodness, I used a few generous scoops of the thick pesto in a summery pasta: cherry tomatoes off my porch plant, charred summer squash, fresh arugula, and a little extra Parmigiano grated on top. I'd have to say that's summer in a bowl!

summer pasta carrot top pesto tomatoes squash

For leftovers, I am thinking of spreading the carrot top pesto on a caprese sandwich and stirring some spoonfuls into greek yogurt for a vegetable dip over the weekend.  I'll attach the recipe tomorrow for you, but ta-ta for now as the oyster bar's a'callin.  

Carrot Top Pesto

1 ½CUPScarrot tops, stems removed
CUPolive oil
½CUPParmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
¼CUPwalnuts, toasted, and roughly chopped
1Xjuice and zest of lemon
2Xcloves garlic, roughly chopped
½TSPNred chili flakes
5Xwhole basil leaves
  1. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, set up an ice water bath to quickly blanch the carrot top leaves.  
  2. Once the water is boiling, sprinkle in a generous pinch of salt and gently submerge the carrot top leaves. Boil for 4 minutes in order to remove some bitterness, then use a sieve to scoop out all of the leaves.  Immediately place in the ice water bath, for about 8 minutes, then use a towel to remove all of the water.  
  3. In a large mixing bowl or a food processor, combine the dried carrot top leaves, olive oil, cheese, walnuts, lemon juice and zest, garlic, red chili flakes, and basil. Pulse in the food processor or use an immersion blender to combine all ingredients into a smooth, but thick paste. 
  4. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if you like.  Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap, placing the wrapping directly on the pesto for about 2 days.