Eating the leafy tops of carrots might seem a bit unusual so this article sets out to explore all the options when it comes to eating carrot tops, including how to eat them and delicious recipe ideas to try.
In today’s world of supermarkets and online shopping, it’s sometimes easy to forget where our food actually comes from. Because carrots are often bought in neat packets, peeled and washed, ready to eat we often forget they are part of a whole plant, including a leafy top.
But maybe you are one of the lucky few who grow your own vegetables or have access to a farmers’ market. Harvesting fresh carrots straight from the ground, you will notice they have a gorgeous head of feathery greens that looks totally edible. So are these carrot tops edible and if so, how do you eat them?
Are Carrot Tops Edible?
Carrot tops are edible and are packed with nutrients. The tops contain 6 times more vitamin C than the roots and are filled with vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and phytonutrients. So they are also really good for you.
The taste of the feathery carrot tops has a slight carroty flavor with a bitter finish and a natural saltiness. They are rather similar to parsley.
Previously, it was believed that carrot tops could be harmful as they contain alkaloids but to ordinary people, eating in normal amounts, they are healthy and nutritious. Many of the foods we eat every day contain very small amounts of alkaloids. For example, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants all contain alkaloids and are deemed healthy and nutritious.
Can You Eat Carrot Leaves Raw?
Carrot tops can be eaten raw although their bitter taste due to their high potassium content can make them unpleasant in salads. As with all vegetables, some tops will be less bitter than others. Taste them before throwing them into the salad.
The soft featheriness of the carrot tops adds a lovely visual texture to a green salad. Similarly, carrot tops can elevate pasta salads.
Only use the softest leaves when eating them raw. Raw carrot tops can also be added to smoothies. Just don’t add too many though as the bitterness may overpower your smoothie.
How to Store Carrot Tops
Carrot roots and carrot tops should be stored separately to maintain maximum freshness. Once you’re home from the market, or you’ve harvested your carrots from the garden, cut the greens from the roots leaving about an inch of green on the root.
The carrot greens can be rinsed, patted dry, and wrapped in paper towel, and placed in a zip lock bag in the fridge. They’ll remain fresh for 3-4 days.
Alternatively, you can place the greens in a glass or bowl of water. If your kitchen is cool, you can leave the glass of leaves out on the shelf. If your kitchen is warm, it is better to place the leaves in the glass in the fridge. The water will keep the leaves fresh and prevent them from wilting for up to 4 days.
How to Eat Carrot Tops
Carrot tops can be added to salads and smoothies. Although some people find them a little bitter, others love them.
If you want to try carrot tops in a smoothie, you can check out this recipe here: Carrot Top Smoothie Recipe. And for eating carrot greens in a salad, this Carrot Top Tabbouleh Salad is a yummy way to eat them fresh.
They are absolutely delicious sautéed in a little garlic and butter or blanched with some herbs and spices. Carrot tops can be an added ingredient to other dishes or they can be the star of a dish. They are delicious in both creamy and tomato-based pasta.
Try adding carrot tops to soups and stews where their bitter, earthy flavor adds depth.
Before cooking your carrot tops make sure you give them a good wash as often they are dirty from the soil on the root. The lower stems, just above the carrot root, are often quite tough and woody. If this is the case, you might want to discard those ones or use them to flavor stocks. Even when used in stews and soups that have a longer cooking time, these hard stems will not soften.
When sauteing, make sure you only use the softest stems and leaves.
Recipe Ideas Using Carrot Tops
Now that you have an idea of how to eat carrot tops, you might like to explore some recipes using this fresh and unique ingredient.
Sauteed Carrot Greens – from Fork in the Road. This recipe is delicious and uses plenty of carrot tops. It makes a wonderful side dish to any meal and is something different, yet nutritious, for your family and friends to enjoy.
Carrot Top Pesto – from Yup It’s Vegan. This vegan pesto recipe is simple and delicious. Carrot top pesto adds a summery feel to any meal. It is particularly delicious on roasted carrots for a double carrot delight.
Carrot Greens Chimichurri – from Love and Lemons. This chimichurri is tasty on just about everything from grilled vegetables to meat. It is also great with fresh bread and a glass of wine on a summer evening.
Garden Veggie Burgers – from Strength and Sunshine. These veggie burgers are vegan and gluten-free. The addition of fresh carrot greens takes them to the next level. They are the perfect light meal.
Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Gremolata – from Swirls of Flavor. A superb way to elevate the humble carrot to a delicious dish. Serve it alongside any roasted meat or with other vegetable dishes to create a vegetable feast.
Sauteed Kale and Carrot Greens – from Hungry Wanderlust. A simple yet flavorsome dish that really showcases the carrot greens. Hungry Wanderlust serves this dish with shrip. You could also try poached salmon or chicken dishes.
Carrot Top Soup – from My Parisian Kitchen. A hearty soup perfect for when you’ve used the carrots in another dish and you’re left wondering what to do with all those fresh leafy carrot greens.
Carrot Top Sabzi – from My Heart Beets. The carrot leaves are taken to a new level of delicious spiciness in this vegetarian Indian recipe.
Carrot Leaf, Coriander, Apple and Chilli Dip – from Kavey Eats. This unusual dip is packed with flavor and nutrition and makes excellent use of carrot tops. Serve this at your next party and wow your guests.
Freezing Carrot Tops
If your vegetable garden is anything like mine, you won’t be able to keep up with all the leafy carrot greens. So don’t let them go to waste, instead, you can preserve them by freezing them. Carrot tops can be frozen for up to 3 months.
You can do this by removing any hard carrot leaf stems. Wash the carrot leaves well and dry them thoroughly. Then place them in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer to be used at your convenience.
As with most frozen vegetables, carrot tops will be limp when defrosted so they won’t be suitable for fresh salads but will be perfect in stews, soups, stocks, and broths.
Drying Carrot Tops
Carrot tops can also be dried and used in cooking as you would use dried parsley and many other dried herbs.
Drying Carrot Tops in the Sun
- To dry carrot tops first wash them thoroughly in water. If your carrots are organic, it may be a good idea to add a little salt to the washing water to kill any small bugs hiding in the leaves.
- Pat the leaves dry and lay them on a tray or baking sheet. Make sure they do not overlap too much and have space for air flow.
- Place the tray in the sun to start drying. Then turn the leaves every evening when you bring them in. You need to bring them indoors in the evening as the dew will rehydrate them if left outdoors.
Carrot tops will take 3 to 5 days to be completely dry. They need to be crisp and crush easily or they will go moldy in the container. Crush the leaves up finely and place them in an airtight container or jar.
Drying Carrot Tops in the Oven
Alternatively, you can dry the carrot leaves in the oven. This method is much quicker.
- Again, place the washed leaves on a baking sheet leaving enough space for each. Turn the oven to its lowest setting and use a fan if you have one.
- Place the leaves in the oven, turning every hour or 2.
It should take 7-12 hours for them to be completely dry. Crush them up finely and place them in an airtight container or jar.
You need never waste any part of the carrot again. The leafy green tops are even more nutritious than the roots. With their earthy carroty flavor, they deserve a prime spot on your table. Who knows, with all these exciting leafy carrot top recipes, it may be the root that sits unused in your fridge from now on!
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