What to do with carrot tops aka carrot greens

Or another lesson in how to make the Internet work for you.

I’d been dimly aware for some time that you can use carrot tops in cooking, but hadn’t really pursued anything about it until the start of July. At a small get-together in SF my friend M. White noted his frustration that so many American markets removed the tops of carrots when in his experience (based in part on having lived in France for a number of years) they were a perfectly natural part of any number of dishes.

Carrot tops’ reputation for being inedible doubtless results from two reasons — taste and (potentially) health reasons. In terms of taste, raw carrot tops can be fairly bitter — it has a carrot taste to it regardless, but it won’t be for everyone, though you can use them in salads easily enough if you have a mind. The larger question of health is one of the biggest question marks when it comes to using them — if you read this recent NY Times story, for instance, you might be inclined to run away from carrot tops as quickly as you can. But this site provides a much more balanced take:

They ARE edible and are highly nutritive, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. The tops of the carrots are loaded with potassium which can make them bitter, so the use of them in food is limited, but there some ideas and recipes below.

However, it is edible, so you may mix some in with a mixed lettuce salad. You may also use it for garnish. Combine your common sense and your creative skills, and invent something! That’s what makes cooking fun. It is a form of art. Carrot greens are high in vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself.

Carrot tops are an outstanding source of chlorophyll, the green pigment that studies have shown to combat the growth of tumours. Chlorophyll contains cleansing properties that purify the blood, lymph nodes, and adrenal glands. Scientists have been unable to synthesize chlorophyll in the laboratory, but green plant foods contain sufficient quantities to protect the human body.

The leaves do contain furocoumarins that may cause allergic contact dermatitis from the leaves, especially when wet. Later exposure to the sun may cause mild photodermatitis. (This is NOT the same as ‘poisonous’ – it will only affect susceptible people with allergies to the plant. Some people have the same reaction to yarrow, ragwort, chamomile etc.)

There is a distinct difference between toxins and allergens. Carrots (Daucus carota), whether wild or domesticated, are not toxic, they are allergenic. This is like peanuts, which are not toxic but can kill those who are allergic to them.

Which again may sound somewhat unfun, but the point is, essentially, know your allergies. A little experimentation might help.

Anyway I’ve spent part of the past month trying to work with the carrot tops I get via my CSA baskets, with the first attempt being a Tuscan carrot top and rice soup that you can find a recipe for pretty easily all over the net. But the other night, getting a slew of the magnificent carrots from my garden meant a LOT of fresh carrot tops, so I wanted to try some other things.

So a couple of nights ago, I found this recipe which had just gone up at the site Cheap Healthy Good — a carrot top scramble. And I gave it a whirl:
Carrot top scramble

I probably should have added more carrot top to it but it was nice, certainly strong when it came to flavor but very enjoyable through and through.

Last night, meanwhile, I did some further scrounging around and discovered another soup recipe via Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm, a carrot top and quinoa soup. Since I had some quinoa around I wasn’t sure what to do with, this was a perfect thing to try:
Carrot top and quinoa soup

The strong flavor of the carrot tops meshed very well with the broth — the recipe suggests beef bouillon but I went as ever with vegetable instead and it tasted mighty fine. Currently got several servings of it on ice for later thawing and use.

There’s other ideas out there, but that’s a start! Give it a whirl and see what might happen!

[UPDATE NOVEMBER 2010 — thanks to everyone very much for your regular visits to this blog entry of mine, which to my gentle delight has become the most regularly read one on my site over these past few years. I wanted to take the opportunity to link to a couple of other fine spots out there providing more recipes and ideas:

Grilled Carrots with Carrot Greens Pesto — this recipe, with handy photos, comes courtesy of the excellent Not Eating Out in New York blog.

Salad of Edible Radish, Beet & Carrot Top Greens — a very inspired away around those ‘extra’ greens, courtesy of another killer blog, White On Rice Couple.

Feel free to keep posting ideas and suggestions in the comments as well! I deeply enjoy how this has become a resource for that over time and hope to see it continue.)

More photos and video from the garden…

…while photos as ever in the Flickr set. TONS of tomatoes have come in, quite a few carrots and some beans as well, lots of chard to be harvested while the watermelon and especially the pumpkins are really coming to the fore now…

Attending the Sky Saxon tribute show last night…

The Seeds

…was quite a blast! I ended up both posting a slew of running thoughts on Twitter (just scroll back to the first #skysaxon mention, and don’t be surprised by a lot of spelling and other mistakes here and there!) as well as taking and posting a number of photos via my iPhone that are now on Flickr, with tags, notes and captions.

So that being the case I won’t immediately go into everything about the show — I hadn’t mentioned Saxon’s passing much as it was announced the day of Steven Wells’s and Michael Jackson’s passing, and my thoughts were elsewhere. And admittedly outside of a few key songs — the legendary “Pushin’ Too Hard” and “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” in particular — my knowledge of a lot of his career, with the original Seeds, with the Source Family and then solo and in other collaborations, was a bit sporadic. (There’s a forthcoming documentary that will doubtless help put a clearer face on it for many, and in the meantime his official website thrives.) But when my friend Ben indicated an interest in going to the show I was all for it and I’m very glad I did.

I also have to tip my hat over to the Billy Corgan obsessives at Hipsters United, as you can see from this post here, since apparently I was a crucial source of information for a few hours there! They also have the full set he did with the Spirits in the Sky up via YouTube, and two to one says that other performances are up as well now…hmm well aside from his performance with the Electric Prunes, apparently not much yet, but give it time.

A reflection on Scouting thanks to an amusing photo choice…

So at work today one of the student workers was amused to learn that I was an Eagle Scout, and so I decided to scrounge up a couple of the photos that I have on Flickr to show that I was, one of which being this one from late high school:

En route to Eagle Scout rank

Admittedly I was at Life rank rather than Eagle, but I was on my way.

Now, in the course of me searching for this photo, as Flickr itself was temporarily being fussy, I found to my slight surprise that this photo had been used to illustrate an LAist article some months back. I have no problem with the photo being used — all my photos are out there under the Creative Commons license and so long as there’s credit and a link back, all’s good, and that was the case here.

That said, the inherent gawkiness of the photo doubtless helped in the choice of using it for the article:

It’s an American institution on the verge of its 100th anniversary, and the Boy Scouts are struggling to survive. Although it’s still the top youth organization in the nation, enrollment has been steadily declining over the past two decades, and in order to stay afloat, they’ve come up with a new strategy: Attract Hispanic kids.

The demographics of the country have changed, and the Boy Scouts are gearing up to adjust accordingly. A Scouting official told the Associated Press (via the Daily News): “We either are going to figure out how to make Scouting the most exciting, dynamic organization for Hispanic kids or we’re going to be out of business,” said Rick Cronk, former national president of the Boy Scouts, and chairman of the World Scout Committee.

….

But ultimately, one thing the article only hinted at was the pop culture rep the Scouts have garnered as being pretty dorky (see: Napoleon Dynamite, for starters).

Trailblazing in the woods, making a cookstove out of a coffee can, and earning merit badges isn’t much competition against video games, skateboarding, or loafing around with your pint-sized pals. Just picture for a moment the 7-12 year old boys you may encounter on any given day here in Los Angeles, Hispanic or not. Now, picture them swapping their everyday togs one night a week for the Scouting uniform, turning off their cellphones, and learning to curb their sassy mouths. Hmmm. Can it work? Mind you, there are, indeed, rewards to belonging to organizations like the Scouts, and those rewards ideally manifest themselves and help make a child into a better adult, but once you sign your kid up, you’ve got to make sure they like it and become invested.

Thing is, I actually like this blend of snark and sense, especially that last sentence, as it sums it all up — if there is actual interest, if something grows out of the experience that captures the moment, then it will become a self-perpetuating cycle. The structure of Scouting, providing a certain level of reward for steady work done but also challenging those who want to get to the highest level to make a further leap on their own, helps give a certain focus — but as the article notes, it’s not just Scouting alone that can provide that within a general structure of activities with an outdoor focus (as friends and children of friends who have been involved with things like the Camp Fire organization and 4-H and more have shown me over time). It helped too that my dad was also an Eagle Scout (indeed, I travel daily to work along part of a road called Jamboree, named after a massive Scout gathering held nearby when my dad was a Scout, and which he attended) and, towards the end of my time in Scouts, my Scoutmaster as well — and a fine job he did of it as well, providing a last necessary push to get me fired up to earn that highest rank when I admittedly was starting to feel slack about it all.

The history of Scouting itself is an unusual one — a bit like the Olympics in ways, something that was a product of late 19th/early 20th century Europe and its relentless celebration of itself as well as some larger ideals, and which exists now in a world much different from where it began. Lord Baden-Powell, the complex and intriguing man who founded the movement, likely wouldn’t know what to think of it all, and somehow I suspect he would have an arched eyebrow or ten to aim at someone like myself even as I aim a few back at him. But while (for instance) we might have different theological views, I really see nothing wrong in this, from his last message to the Scouts of the world in 1937:

…I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man. Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one. But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it.

Scouting for me is a sea of good memories, friendships and adventures, hiking expeditions and trips, from a multi-day canoe ride down the Colorado River to hikes throughout the Adirondacks in upstate New York, projects ranging from my own Eagle project of helping a school library get its holdings fully barcoded (or close!) to the cleaning up of a long overgrown cemetery in Saratoga Springs. If I never became actively involved in it beyond high school and the attaining of Eagle, it wasn’t because I was ashamed of time there, though certainly I’ve enjoyed surprising people who didn’t realize I was one over the years — must have been the hair, in part. And those famous mottos we always learned — “Do your best,” “Be prepared” — well, is there anything wrong with them? Certainly not.

Still, especially following what I felt was the extremely unfortunate decision by the Boy Scouts of America to stand firm on forbidding non-heterosexual members to serve openly as leaders, it was easy to let Scouting go while still drawing on the experiences in new contexts. To learn that membership’s been eroding over the years isn’t, sadly, too surprising — friends whose children were involved in Camp Fire told me once that they felt Scouting’s gender division and attitudes like I’ve just noted weren’t sending the best messages to their kids, an understandable sentiment — and the LAist piece’s take on the sheer amount of distractions and other possibilities available for children now as compared to when I was young are well-observed (and even then things like Atari were eating up a lot of my time!).

But again, it comes back to interest, encouragement and motivation, ultimately on the part of the kid in question even more so than the parents. And it has to be said that I found Cronk’s comments about trying to attract ‘Hispanic kids’ a bit weird since I remember a number of Scouts of both Mexican and Asian backgrounds in my troops and dens over the years — we were all just kids having a great time. It’s not about the stereotypes but the active working against them. In the few comments that followed the piece — I admit I was expecting someone to ask after the photo! — I noted this one at the end, which I thought was well argued (if a touch ungrammatical around the edges):

On the cool issue–i spent the last few years following a Boy Scout troop from Harlem for a documentary. A lot of the scouts i’ve met over the years–and especially those i’ve encountered in New York City and Harlem–didn’t really fit the white-bred-conservative-dork-stereotypes that a lot of my highly educated urban elite friends seem to point to when they categorically dismiss the value of Scouting. You may not believe it but if you bothered to meet some of them you’ll find plenty of Scouts are actually quite cool–not a vapid, detached, indifferent, glassy-eyed Abercrombie & Fitch catalog cool (to borrow an image from Scout chronicler Peter Applebome). But many of the Scouts here in New York City exude a smart, practical, observant, engaged, understated and confident cool. Kind of like and Obama cool–who, by the way, will be the next honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America.

A fine choice for that role, if you ask me. I think Scouting can and will adjust to the times, much as America itself is right now. If it can do that, then indeed, long may it thrive.

Encoding

My reading for the past few days has been Hal Duncan’s Vellum, not a new book, came out in 2005. It was one of my many library finds some months back — I liked the look of the cover and a quick check of the blurbs indicated it would probably be up my alley — so I finally settled in to give a full read this past week.

It’s interesting reading something so very self-consciously state of the art as well as reverent towards its many roots and sources — as much as writers or artists were producing works based on accretion of older myths and legends and more in the past, so too now, though Duncan is one of those artists that works with a newer canon as much as an antique one. In that sense it’s a perfect first novel, because it isn’t merely indebted to its forebears but embraces them and aims to haul itself alongside them not simply by trying to make an impact but by explicit authorial intent. It couldn’t exist before now, and it couldn’t exist without those who had come before — as true a definition of what is ‘new’ as anything.

An oversimplified but accurate enough summary of Vellum would be Neal Stephenson meets Philip Pullman — from the former, technology set against earliest human myths, post-cyberpunk futures and characters, language as virus as means of control, narratives and secret histories concurrently running across time; from the latter, order versus chaos, infinite realities, a final war in or of heaven, actors beyond binaries. There’s plenty of bleedover between the two at many points, making something like Duncan’s work easier to come about, but the synthesis is reasonably strong and individual for all the endless references and reworks. (One of the more delightful — and unsettling — moments of Vellum is the first appearance of Metatron, the Angelic figure from Talmudic tradition who functions as the archoverseer of oppression and cruelty in Pullman’s work; Duncan’s variation on that slant at once acknowledges that reworking and suggests an alternate approach, as does his take on Pullman’s Dust.)

It isn’t just Stephenson and Pullman, though, far from it — off the top of my head, there’s implicit and explicit references to H. P. Lovecraft (more on that later), Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake, the Wachowski brothers, David Lynch, William Burroughs, China Miéville, Mike Mignola, Clive Barker, many others besides…a now codified collection of artists aiming to capture disruption and alienation within words and images, across a variety of media. At one point in the book I was thinking that Michael Moorcock had to be another sourcepoint and was subsequently amused to see a brief but handy mention of that writer’s own ur-figure amid multiple realities Jerry Cornelius, but it was equally telling to see John Constantine mentioned shortly thereafter as well. Glancing acknowledgements, open tips of the hat, but not just as inspirations — as reclamations, Duncan fitting them into his own story. There’s an entertaining arrogance about that.

With all that as buildup, what is Vellum itself? It’s actually the first of two books — and I’ll be getting around to Ink soonish — but does work as a stand-alone story, at least for me. Duncan is if nothing else one to pull out all possible stops, though, and while there is a linear story at work as an anchor, plus a solid beginning and conclusion, it is as continually unstable collage that the overall read functions, something driving you forward as much as it is sending you down side roads, encouraging you to flip backwards (and almost flip forwards). There are core characters existing under alternate names, alternate identities, archetypal figures, there are retold stories, reworked points of view. Some stories exist in near isolation, others cross boundaries in unusual ways, everything down to the typeface can be and is a signifier. Again, it’s not that this approach is uniquely Duncan’s, but it is showing a remarkable command for the tools and tropes — not bad for a first novel, plenty of woodshedding must have already gone down for that to happen.

Part of the reason why I’ve discussed the antecedents so much is to avoid talking about the plot in too much detail, admittedly — if you’ve already encountered much of that work, you’re good to go, and if you know Stephenson and Pullman in particular you are VERY good to go. It makes me wonder what I would think of it if I didn’t know any of those writers or artists at all, if I came into this story completely cold. I can say that Duncan does have a sense of drive going that builds the more you read it — I’d initially been dabbling in the book chapter by chapter but after enough groundwork had been laid (enough, but by no means all — in fact there’s arguably groundwork being laid up to the final pages) and a sense of urgency started to drive the narrative, it turned quickly into can’t-put-it-down quality. So for that reason alone even if you’re not fully familiar with Duncan’s own sourcepoints, I’d say give it a go and let it begin to build from there — if you just want a good story, you’ve got it, in all its fragments and digressions as well as the main parts.

The shards that splinter throughout the book’s narratives help to keep the ‘genre’ tag hard to apply, as it should be. One core arc casts the story as a World War I-and-after tale of a tragic wartime romance and its aftermath, a tale of a doomed young soldier, the friend who killed him while being in love with the soldier’s sister, the officer who turned the aftermath into a bitter triangle, all against stories of socialist gatherings in Glasgow 1919 through to the Spanish Civil War and after. Another arc — with a connection to that first one, but functioning equally well as a separate story — pushes the Lovecraft fascination to a full exploration and revision of one of his most memorable stories, “The Rats in the Walls,” but in a much different context and scale, backgrounds including the Russian Revolution and the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. And further arcs and stories on top of that, a teenage girl searching for her lost brother, mercenaries wanting out of a war they signed up for unknowingly, protohistory inscribed on mind, body and soul, and further along.

Lurking behind it all, the Vellum, the landscape of reality that’s the ‘true’ universe, another reworked trope. I think it was Roger Zelazny‘s Amber books that first introduced me to the concept of the real universe at the heart of the endless variations, back when I was 13, and if there isn’t a study of how this trope evolved over the years, there needs to be (it would have to include how that’s worked out in Marvel/DC continuities, obviously). Duncan’s riff on the idea is introduced fantastically at the start of the book — suffice to say anyone who is a cartographic fiend will be bowled over by the conceit introduced there, and the character who begins the book becomes a key anchor for what follows even as he disappears for long stretches, exploring his own long stretches of space and time.

Two things to note in conclusion, and a negative one first — for all the book’s power and ability, there is something perversely parochial about its range, reflective I think of the overall background of the author and many of his reference points. It’s a largely British-American universe, seen through those lenses — and that’s no sin, but as the global culture as such both stabilizes and mutates, I have a feeling Duncan’s work here will be seen more as a twentieth-century holdover more than starting point for the 21st, just as much as a lot of the general fears and concerns raised in the background of its (mostly) 2017 AD setting are products of the state of the world in 2005, when the novel was published. Again, it’s hardly Duncan’s fault for being born and raised in the UK, learning English as a first language and so forth, but it colors, perhaps more unconsciously than anything else, what’s meant to be a story of universal reach and detail. It should be noted that Duncan’s my age, though — younger writers will, I think, bring much different and wider reference points to bear when they make their contributions to the canon, and will I think ultimately refresh it all the more strongly, something I’ve noticed Duncan has discussed himself as part of a larger, to use his words, ‘generational change’ (more on that shortly).

But to conclude on a positive note — a regular theme from start to finish in the book is gay male love and lust, especially in the face of persecution and worse, and while Duncan doubtless resists the pigeonholing of being called a ‘gay writer,’ his attention to these themes is part of what helps to separate him from the novel’s two key forebears in particular (Pullman’s own nod to these issues does form a strong part of The Amber Spyglass but it is a story to the side at all times, for instance). An almost-totally separate story within the novel explores an alternate history (and biology) version of the Matthew Shepard murder, extending the larger thematic points Duncan makes but also showing how it serves as a vivid, harrowing story on its own.

As noted, there’s a second book still to read, but it’s no accident that Vellum itself ends on a story of quiet rather than earth-shattering apocalypse, being the second and (at least here) concluding part of another narrative arc set in a vague edge-of-the-world refugee town for escapees from an unclear disaster. It is in many ways ‘just’ a story of romance, of a narrator unsure of his lover Jack and unsure of himself, and not feeling cognizant of how he will face his moment of reckoning, as it’s literally termed, via the mysterious figure that acts as the town’s protector and judge. How it’s resolved lets the reader end here if one chooses, with a sense that there’s at least one way that things can end well in an infinite universe of struggle, pain and death.

Be interesting to see how Ink turns out when I get around to reading it. Meantime, no surprise at all to find that Duncan’s got a good blog — I recommend his recent post ‘Bukiet on Brooklyn Books’ both as a general response to the writer and issue referred to in the title and as a brief discussion of that ‘generational change’ I noted earlier, specifically on how the ‘literature’/’genre’ war might be finally collapsing as an outworn model of supposed conflict. A while back I noted my dissatisfaction with Michael Chabon’s overextended apologia for liking genre fiction added to the end of the otherwise really enjoyable Gentlemen of the Road. To quote myself a bit at the end, “here’s to hoping that as time continues the perceived need for this kind of explanation dies away, at the least bit by bit and at the most in a heap.” That Duncan is seeing this himself is a damn good sign, so I’ll end by quoting him more fully now:

I suspect there’s a generational change, with a lot of younger writers not simply indifferent but steeped in paraliterature, happy to use the strange (that which breaches mimesis in terms of credibility warp) and the diegetic (that which breaches mimesis by telling rather than representing.) And not just in an ironic way a la postmodernism but with the sincerity you find in magic realism and fabulism.

We’re on our way indeed.

My past Friday afternoon

Summed up. Some days you just want to chill, after all. (And that’s been my goal the entire weekend and so it’s proved, with a nice exception being the pretty good Indian Jewelry show last night on campus.) Hope your own weekend’s been equally nice.

Cold somen noodles done a little more properly

As a recent take on this was a little more free. Regardless, said noodles along with various other toppings and a dipping sauce, along with a good sake. Nice combination!

There are any number of cold somen noodle recipes online — a fun I came across, which links to a recent LA Times story as well, is courtesy of the Food Librarian. Needless to say any library employee in the LA area who is a cooking fiend is all right by me, so I salute you!

Somen noodles are easily cooked, rinsed and chilled, and so long as you have the basic dipping sauce around — somen tsuyu is how it’s labeled if you go the storebought route — the sky’s the limit in terms of what you want to include or try.

More garden photos and a new video!

As you can see in the quick video above, a number of things are starting to come in a bit and/or really thrive! New photos also now available at the photo set.

Stir-fried zucchini, carrots and leeks


Good little recipe from the most recent CSA delivery — in this case served with white rice but you could probably have it go with about anything.

2 md young zucchini
3 Fresh carrots
2 lg Leeks
3 Cloves garlic
1 ts Ginger, minced
2 tb Peanut oil
1/4 ts Sesame oil
1/2 ts Salt
1/2 ts Sugar
1/4 ts 5-spice powder

Preparation: Wash vegetables. Trim zucchini and slice into 2″ long matchsticks. Peel carrots and cut into 2″ long matchsticks. Trim leeks and do likewise. Peel garlic and cut into thin slices.

Stir-frying: Heat peanut oil in hot wok until it starts to smoke. Stir-fry garlic and ginger for 30 seconds, splashing with water to prevent burning. Add carrots and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Add leeks; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add zucchini; stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Sprinkle with seasonings, tossing ingredients as you do. When vegetables are cooked, sprinkle with sesame oil. Transfer to serving platter or individual plates to serve.

R. Crumb sending mystic signals


As you can see, some aimed directly at me, others sent to the world at large. This was from the opening of the R. Crumb exhibition at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. Enjoyable selection of his work from the sixties to now, but I especially recommendation his recent ‘Spoolmen’ installation.

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