As my new season carrots begin to make a regular appearance in veggie orders, you can be guaranteed this is a statement I will hear again and again. And I can understand why! I will admit to smiling broadly every time I fill up the coolbox as I admire the leafy greens standing tall, and the gorgeous aroma of carrot tops (yes, I know it's weird).
So, before we get into the various uses for those beautifully fresh carrot tops, let's talk about "the chop".
Whilst all root vegetables look abundant with their tops on, we are actually robbing the root itself of important nutrients when we leave the tops on and pop them into the fridge until we decide to use them in our next meal. If you think about any plant when in the ground growing, it is the root that provides the nutrients from the soil (when grown in living soil and not reliant on artificial feeding) to the stems and leaves above ground. When the plant is harvested, the root continues to provide nutrients to the leafy tops, effectively robbing the carrot, beetroot, radish, turnip etc, etc of its goodness. Therefore, if you want your root veggies to stay crisp and fresh, chop the tops off as soon as you can. Store both the tops and root veg in the crisper section of the fridge, using whatever method you desire (tupperware, plastic bag, wrapped in a moist tea towel). Just don't leave them uncovered as the fridge will then suck the moisture out of them, leaving them limp and lifeless.
So, what to do with those carrot tops?
Carrot tops, when fresh and raw, give a subtle carrot flavour to any dish. Finely chop the younger, vibrant green tops and add to salads for a unique experience or use them as a garnish on fish or chicken. Carrot tops can also be added towards the end of any saute or stir fry. Probably the most common use however, would be in making carrot top pesto.
The recipe below was forward to me during the week by one of my lovely customers Gwenda, who said "I just couldn't bare to waste those carrot tops!"
1 bunch of carrot tops
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
(optional) salt to taste
Add ingredients to a food processor, starting with the lesser amount of olive oil. Pulse until well combined. Add additional olive oil as needed to reach desired texture. Taste the pesto and add salt if needed.
Delicious served with pasta, baked chicken, potatoes, on bruschetta, as a dip, on homemade pizza...