Carrots are available year-round, although arguably the best season to enjoy them at their sweetest, most tender peak is in the spring. You can often find bunches of rainbow-colored carrots with their frilly fronds still attached.
If you buy carrots with their greens still attached, or if you harvest them from your own garden, please think twice before throwing away half the plant! You’ve paid for and/or labored for them, and they’re wholly edible with a little creative cookery.
Consider also that the amount of waste created by food production and preparation is one of the greatest challenges facing the sustainability of our food system. Shockingly, it’s estimated that up to 40% of food in the U.S. is uneaten, and the average household of four throws away between $1,350–$2,275 per year in wasted food.
The reason carrot tops usually end up in the compost bin is because they tend to be on the bitter side; however, the tops of younger carrots are usually milder than those of older carrots. Blanching the carrot tops in boiling, salted water not only helps remove some of the bitterness, but also maintains the bright green color of the carrot tops. The punchy pungency of fresh garlic, plus the creaminess of hazelnuts and olive oil, also helps balance the bitterness.
Let’s get cooking!
Roasted carrots with carrot top pesto
Serves 4 as a side dish.
- Carrots, 1 large bunch (weighing about 1 pound) with greens attached
- Extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup + 1 tablespoon
- Salt, ½ teaspoon
- Garlic, 1–2 cloves, peeled
- Hazelnuts, roasted and salted
- Roast the carrot roots. Preheat your oven to 375 F. While the oven is coming up to temperature, separate the carrot tops from the roots and wash them well. You can peel the skins if they’re very dirty or look bruised, but there’s no real need to remove them. Carrot skin is edible, and removing it only removes nutrients and creates waste. Slice the carrot roots in half lengthwise, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and put them on a lined baking sheet. Roast the carrot roots for 15–20 minutes, or until done to your liking.
- Meanwhile, prepare the carrot tops. Carrot tops can be rather dirty, so start by washing them in a sink or bowl until the water runs clear. Pluck the fronds from the stems – you should have about 2 cups, lightly packed, of carrot fronds. Compost the stems.
- Boil water in a medium-sized pot. Once the water reaches a boil, toss in the ½ teaspoon of salt then dunk the carrot fronds in the water for about 10–15 seconds. Strain the greens and rinse them under cold water, then squeeze out as much of the water as you can and roughly chop the blanched carrot tops.
- Blend the carrot top pesto. In a food processor, add the blanched, chopped carrot tops, peeled garlic cloves and hazelnuts. Pulse the ingredients several times, scraping down the sides as needed, then drizzle in the remaining ½ cup olive oil. Blend until smooth.
- Plate up. Spoon a few dollops of the carrot top pesto over the roasted carrots and enjoy!