“Carrot Tops” Pesto! Have I gone nuts??

The Confession

I have a confession to make:  I hate to waste anything fresh from the garden! That being said, when I found this recipe for carrot tops pesto I was skeptical. How good could these carrot tops possibly taste if I had been throwing them away for all these years? I never even heard of anyone eating them!

Be careful which carrot tops you eat!!

If you decide to eat carrot tops, make sure you use organic carrot tops that have not been sprayed with any chemicals. Most farmers are not expecting the carrot tops to be consumed, so may spray the crop with pesticides. Do not eat carrot tops that have been sprayed. If you grow your own carrots you have better control over this. There are some who say that carrot tops should not be eaten. (This is discussed further here)

Are carrot tops nourishing??

Carrot tops are highly nutritive, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. They contain 6 times the vitamin C than the root and are a great source of potassium and calcium. The tops of the carrots are loaded with potassium which can make them bitter, so the use of them in food is limited, but pesto is a great way to use this interesting tasting leaf.

I’m addicted to carrot tops!

Not only do I like this pesto, I’m addicted to it! I have actually woken up in the middle of the night wanting to go into the kitchen and spread some between the folds of some whole wheat pita! The taste is not for everyone though, my husband hates it!

Carrot top pesto is easy to make!

I found a recipe on the East Something Sexy site  but made some changes to suit my tastes. My adapted recipe ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted walnuts
  • 1/4  – 1/2 cup olive oil (more or less)
  • ½ large sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch of carrot tops (about 1/2 pound) thoroughly washed
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast 

First things first!

After harvesting some of the carrots from the garden, I separated the leaves from the coarse stems using kitchen shears. I soaked the leaves and softer stems in cold water in the sink.

Trimming and washing carrot tops

Trimming and washing carrot tops

After spinning them dry in my salad spinner , I was rewarded with a huge pile of clean fluffy carrot tops!

Making the “carrot tops” pesto

Toast the walnuts in a pan or the oven until golden. I used the stove top method. Set aside the toasted walnuts.

Toasting walnuts in a pan

Toasting walnuts in a pan

I chose the biggest saute pan in my kitchen since I was making such a big batch! Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute an additional minute before adding in carrot tops and a sprinkle of kosher salt.

Coarsely chopped garlic and onion

Coarsely chopped garlic and onion

Cook until all of the carrot tops are wilted. I needed to add one handful at a time, tossing continuously, until the whole pile was wilted and mixed with the garlic and onion. It should only take a few minutes.

Wilted carrot tops

Wilted carrot tops

Transfer mixture to food processor, adding toasted walnuts, water, and nutritional yeast (for that classic cheesy flavor expected from pesto). Pulse mixture in food processor, adding the oil in a slow steady stream (I used the feed tube with a hole in it to slowly introduce the oil). Adjust the olive oil to your taste (some like a more oily pesto than others). Keep pulsing until mixture becomes a coarse, chunky paste. Do not over process or it will be mushy.

Save some carrot tops pesto for later!!

Pesto is usually eaten in small portions (as a dip, in salad dressings, on pasta or pizza). Since you probably will not eat this entire recipe at once, you may want to save some for later! I froze mine using old fashioned ice cube trays, so I can grab and defrost some whenever I get the urge!!

Freezing carrot top pesto

Freezing carrot top pesto

*I want to send out a special “Thank You” to my friend Wendy McNally for introducing me to Carrot Top Pesto! Without her I may never have experienced this delight!! Barbara Wagner, RD

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