Zero Waste: Carrot Tops
BY NICK MACMAHON | 2 AUG 2019
Carrot tops are a valuable part of the carrot plant, you may be buying them for the roots, but no need to throw out the tops. There are two parts to carrot tops; the stalks and the leaves. The flavour of both is green and earthy, with a hint of carrot flavour. Be sure to give them a good wash first.
The stalks of the carrot tops are somewhat tough and fibrous therefore the best way to use these up is to either chopped finely by hand or blended in a food processor. They can be eaten cooked or raw.
To cook, I suggest sautéing with onions and garlic, as a base for a savoury dish like a pasta sauce or stew. Savoury sauces and stews are all about layering flavours. Adding a few handfuls of chopped stalks can provide an additional earthy flavour. If you are making a soup or stew, you can throw them in towards the end of cooking for a fresh, green flavour. Or, just save them for adding to stock.
For eating raw, the stalks make a great fresh salsa. Chop up the stalks with shallots and a big squeeze of lemon juice. A great topping for tacos, a sandwich or just thrown in a salad. It is also a good accompaniment to a curry. And if you don’t use it all, it can easily be sautéed, as above.
The leafy part can be used as you would use parsley. Great for blending into a green sauce or chopped and added to a salad. They have a rough texture and quite a woody flavour. If that’s a concern, a quick sauté or blanching helps to soften the texture and flavour making it more palatable.
One easy way to use up carrot tops, that I use often is to make carrot top pistou. It’s not pesto, it’s pistou. A Provençal green sauce, that is a more basic (and cheaper) version of pesto. There’s no cheese (so it’s vegan) and no nuts. A pistou is just basil, garlic, salt and olive oil, blitzed up. And if you are using leftover carrot top leaves, it’s practically free to make. Carrot top pistou isn’t floral like basil but earthy and garlicky. Serve with roast root veg, grilled meats or mix it with mayo and spread it on a sandwich. It’s also really easy to add extra ingredients that you may have to spare. Add pinenuts and parmesan for pesto, or try adding things like vinegar, lemon juice, anchovies, chilli, capers, mustard, nuts, herbs, etc.