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.)

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71 Responses to “What to do with carrot tops aka carrot greens”

  1. John Says:

    Thanks for putting the record straight. In these times of financial hardship it is a good idea to recommend we eat things we would normally throw away!

    World Carrot Museum

  2. Austin Says:

    Hello again, Ned—

    Your blog makes my mouth water sometimes.

    Quite literally, in fact.

    Ever tried beet greens?

    They’re pretty not bad-ish.

    ~Austin

  3. What to do with Carrot Tops Says:

    [...] 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.” Read more [...]

  4. Robin Says:

    Mr. Ned,

    Thanks for the blog, I was just from my garden with carrots in hand and I though how fresh the carrot tops smelled (parsley esque) and jumped on the net to see if they were edible. I shall look forward to trying them.

    Robin

  5. Ned Raggett Says:

    Thanks and too kind of you!

  6. marbrom Says:

    Reason I’m submitting this comment is because, after consuming a lot of raw carrot greens recently, I’m still alive!!! I included them in a vegetable ‘smoothie’ a la Victoria Boutenko and no way was the taste awful: it was good.
    How to get those greens when commercial marketing denudes the carrots? Well, I purchased a small bunch of baby carrots with their tops intact, cut off the tops about 1cm down, ate the carrots and planted the cut off tops in my vegie garden. Within a couple of days they started to grow fresh new tops. It can apparently also be done indoors by placing the tops in a saucer of water, but I haven’ty tried this yet.
    Raw carrot top soup: blend carrots in water, finely chop capsicum, cucumber and spring onion, add to blended carrots with chopped up carrot tops to your taste, then stir in enough coconut cream powder to taste, with enough water to make a creamy soup consistency. Enjoy. All the best, Marbrom.

  7. Eating the Whole Carrot Soup « Head Cheese and Jelly Beans Says:

    [...] some find the tops of carrots poisonous, while others find them a tasty, somewhat bitter but very healthy, parsley-like green. My carrot tops looked too tempting to be poisonous, so I chose the latter [...]

  8. Kris Says:

    Thanks so much! Just the other day I felt compelled to eat some tops from a batch of “yellow” carrots from the farmer’s market and tossed a few in a salad with a homemade (wing-it) salad dressing. Added some walnuts and let’s just say I was moaning with savory delight :-)

    Grateful for other ideas to use these tasty greens. Much appreciated.

  9. thelordshousekeeper Says:

    Thanks for the tips and recipe! I just thinned out my carrot patch and didn’t want to just throw away all the greens. I’m glad to know that you can eat them….and even enjoy them :-D

  10. Cole Says:

    If you haven’t yet tried them I highly recommend you munch some radish greens. They are really wonderful. While not all of our root crops have edible greens (potatoes have very toxic greens) most do as they were originally gathered for their greens. I love strong greens and enjoy exploring the things I can find to use that others no longer do.

    • Ned Raggett Says:

      Thanks very much for the comment — I have indeed used radish greens before, quite tasty! Often the radishes I get via my CSA program have very withered or bug-nibbled greens, though the radishes themselves remain more than fine. In those cases I contribute the greens to our garden composter.

  11. What to do with shiso aka perilla « Ned Raggett Ponders It All Says:

    [...] on Frogs!Alexandra on Frogs!Ned Raggett on The garden on July 23, 20…Ned Raggett on What to do with carrot tops ak…Cole on What to do with carrot tops [...]

  12. joanna Says:

    I use my carrot greens in smoothies.

    1 bunch of carrot tops
    ½ pineappel, or 2 mangoes
    2 bananas
    enough water to suit you and your blender.

  13. Heather Says:

    I also use carrot tops in smoothies, since I heard about their great health benefit and have an abundance in my garden. I have a very flexible method of making smoothies: I start with yogurt in the blender and mix a couple cups of whatever greens I have: spinach, kale, carrot tops, beet greens. Then I throw in whatever fruit I have on hand, fresh or frozen. It’s always different and always delicious. My 2 year old loves it, which is an added benefit!

    • Ned Raggett Says:

      Getting kids interested in healthy and tasty at such a young age really strikes me as most intelligent, so that’s an inspiring story. The simplicity is key as well! It sets a good pattern for them.

  14. Kevin Says:

    Carrot tops are sold separately from carrots in markets in eastern Europe in big bunches, and I believe they are used mainly as a herb, and most often as an addition to thin types of chicken broth.

    • Ned Raggett Says:

      It hadn’t occurred to me until your post to think of it as an herb or herb equivalent but that makes complete sense. Chopped and dried could be good for storage…hmm.

  15. Alex Says:

    I find that carrot tops have a very similar taste to parsley, but with an earthy carrot taste. As a chef, I am constantly playing around with food items that are often considered “trim”. I dress parsley greens, thin shaved carrots, and breakfast radish with red wine vinegar, oil and sea salt. They can be quickly sauteed in olive oil with a few drops of red wine vinegar to cut the bitterness. I also like to utilize their chlorophyll as a coloring agent. Boil the greens for 10 seconds, plunge in ice water to stop the cooking and set the chlorophyll, process in a blender, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. The puree can be added last minute to creamed spinach, green curry, asparagus soup, etc. My favorite sauce on this planet is made with carrot greens. Cover whole, peeled garlic cloves with cold water, bring to a boil, and drain the water. Repeat two more times, but on the third, allow the garlic to boil until it is tender. Once the garlic is tender, throw in parsley leaves and allow to boil for ten seconds. Drain, cool in ice water, and puree with about one tablespoon each of water and a neutral tasting oil. the ratio of garlic to leaves should be about 2:1 by weight. Heck you can even fry the picked leaves in 325*F oil for 10 seconds to used asa crispy garnish.

  16. Tammy McLeod Says:

    Love the carrot quinoa combination and will put that on our menu this weekend.

  17. naturegirl Says:

    can the carrot greens be juiced OK?

  18. Rachel Says:

    My 6 year old son has just harvested our first crop of carrots grown in a tub. How exciting to find that there are things I can do with the tops. will start off with a smoothie in the morning and will try some whole carrot soup for a dinner party in a few weeks. will report back. thank you everyone.

    • Ned Raggett Says:

      You’re most welcome, good luck with that and hope your son enjoys it too!

    • epbush Says:

      I found that the strong flavor of the greens was a bit more than MY 4 and 6 year olds were up for in straight up salad or soup, UNTIL i went sweet. They like a nice salad of fresh carrot ribbons, diced carrot greens, chopped green apple and fresh peach. The sweet and the herby are a nice combo- that with a poppy seed type dressing or a raspberry vin. Adding golden raisins and sunflower seeds is nice, too.
      For my next carrot top experiment – Tabouli – with TVP in place of the wheat. I make a feta tabouli that way (love the way that the TVP absorbs the juices from the tomatoes – thinking what it would be like with carrot greens – as carrot and cumin go together so well.)

      • Ned Raggett Says:

        Great stories there — I’ll have to keep those salad combinations and the tabouli experiment in mind for the future! Carrot and cumin indeed make a killer combination.

  19. Soviet Says:

    Hey Ned I was looking info on the advisability of putting carrot stocks in my chicken stock, so surprised and pleased to see YOUR advice! I’ve lurked on 1lx for years and you’re in my top ten faves, would know you anwhere, admired your garden pics. Thanks! Working on my nouvelle stock now

  20. trasie Says:

    So I have these beautiful green carrot tops from the farmer’s market today, and trying to figure out what to do with them leads me to this blog and to Ned who probably doesn’t remember me from when I wrote for him at the New U :)

    My husband is from India, and from his aunts I have learned that pretty much everything that comes out of the ground is edible. Inspired by the great ideas here, tomorrow for lunch I will stir fry them with red peppers, black pepper powder, a pinch of asafoetida and turmeric, fresh ginger, garam masala, and daikon tops.

    I might buy some next week just to juice them, as well. Yum.

    Awesome blog, Ned. I will be back!

  21. Joe Says:

    Go Southern! Cook thick Bacon or Fat back enough to brown, throw in carrot tops along with collards, kale, spinach, and all that other leafy green stuff that comes from the garden that get ignored in favor of their flashy roots (i’m looking @ you beets). Cover and Cook on medium low heat for as long as can stand it, and serve over rice. The Best! For equally great vegetarian slightly Indian flavor, sub garlic for bacon, add green and cook for a good long while, and add a little bit of butter (clarified is better) and some coconut milk. Either way a tiny bit of vinagar goes a long way to cut the bitterness of any greens.

  22. Tony Novak, MBA, MT Says:

    Thanks for the great ideas!

  23. Jane Says:

    A macrobiotic friend of mine recommended sauteeing carroy greens and burdock root in sesame oil…I do it with coconut oil and add leeks or scallions, a little chili paste and stir in brown rice…Mmmmm!!! Add a touch of sherry and it is super yummy.

  24. paul Says:

    I checked a friends herbalist handbook and carrot tops were there as a astrigent usefull as a bitterherb so i tried it with 7 carrot tops 4 garlic cloves some parsley,dill and ckicken broth to which i also added olive oil and chicken broth with canned octopus.it was tasty a litlle biteer to the bite but i dont mind that

  25. Allison Says:

    I am so glad I found your blog and tried this recipe. I have grown carrots for the first time successfully in my garden this year. I was thinning them out and had these adorable little fingerly carrots. I new what to do with them but did not want to waist the greens. So I got on the internet, which led me here. I made this pesto without the cheese (we are on a plant-based whole food diet). I tasted it and was happy but did not really taste a distinct flavor of carrot, more walnut and garlic. So I decided to experiment and added a handful of fresh herbs form my garden- sage, oregano, and thyme. I pan grilled some vegies, baby carrots, mushrooms, and sweet peppers, and put them in a whole grain pita with the pesto on top. Magnificent!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. Nina of cambridge Says:

    A man I knew from Sri Lanka used to make a side dish for curry from carrot tops – it was delicious; but I don’t know how he did it – any ideas?

  27. Mary Says:

    Darn! Last night I fed the thinning-carrot tops to my worm bin. Lucky worms! But who knew! Thanks for enlightening me!!! Next ones are mine!!

  28. Frank Says:

    Just wanted to add two cents to say thanks for the informative site on carrot tops… the info I was looking for.

    Thank you.

    -Frank

  29. Michelle Says:

    I have a beautiful crop of purple carrots and was admiring the foliage and wondered if it was edible. Googled it and found your site. Thank you……I’m now adding the greens to my stir fry as well as my green smoothies. :-)

  30. Cherise Says:

    thanks for this! i’ve been looking all over the net at different views from “i dont know but i’m sure it’s fine” to the fear mongering “the toxic salad! dont risk it may result in death!” *rolls eyes* today makind some veggie soup with a veggie stock cube and “toxic” carrot tops =) =P

    • Ned Raggett Says:

      Sounds great! Glad my post helped suggest some ideas. Go to town and experiment!

      • Diane Says:

        I’ve just cooked some free range chicken pieces in coconut oil with cumin, basil and oregano and tomato puree. I added orange split lentils and garlic, along with freshly dug up leeks, carrots, sweet potato, normal potato and courgette. It smells lovely and I must say that the carrot greens taste gorgeous, not bitter in this case at all, sort of a parsley.

      • Ned Raggett Says:

        Sounds delicious! And yes that parsley taste sounds right, especially in combination with the other ingredients.

  31. Thursday Evening Extra: Carrot Greens Pesto | The Resourceful Kitchen Says:

    [...] decided to look online and find out if there were any good tips for using them. I came across this post by blogger Ned Raggett, and thought the suggestion for Carrot Green Pesto sounded the most [...]

  32. http://tinyurl.com/trikfrank52484 Says:

    I really think about why you named this post, “What to do
    with carrot tops aka carrot greens Ned Raggett
    Ponders It All”. No matter what I actually loved the article!
    Thanks for your effort,Gino

  33. Sparks Says:

    Hi Ned, great article! You have great nutritional info on carrot top greens!! Could you post your where you found your infomation? Thanks!!

  34. Francisca Says:

    Thanks a lot for the info…..quite interesting to know how good carrot green is. I wil surely give it some trials!

  35. Stephen Toews Says:

    Funny, is there no actual science on Carrot tops (Greens). I figure use them, but sparingly, and not in non organic and spread with pesticide. Fact is have you ever held of deaths occurring from them? No, Hemlock a close cousin, yes. So cation, don’t eat Hemlock, it looks different of the wild carrot, has purple specks on the stems, and are shiny in appearance. Carrot tops are all green, and have tiny hairs on stems.

    I’m certain the French would not sell them in markets and have recipes to eat them if they could kill you. But moderation is a warning as the are alkaline.

    I’m using some fine leaves in a tomato sauce right now, the alkaline balances out the acids in the sauce. And add Vitamin K and Potassium.

  36. Sylvia Dowdy Martel Says:

    QUESTION? I collect many greens, like the kale, cauliflower, & cabbage leaves, before they were heading, they are now heading just fine, and the broccoli leaves, and on the broccoli it put out extra shoots in which i am growing several heads of broccoli from one plant..that a big plus, I was wondering as my free range chicken ate one full container of carrot tops down and they all came back fine, even the same size now as my other 2nd container, why can’t we harvest a few carrot tops as needed, as they do grow back (as I know that for a fact). This way we can use some as needed. Has anyone done this YET????

    I cooked a big pot of mixed greens today (cabbage, kale, broccoli)
    in a large stockpot I filled about 1/3 full with water, and added 2 large chopped onions and a tablespoon of concentrated chicken broth( Tones, from Sams Club). I added 2 smoked turkey drumsticks and 2 wings, and dry garlic chips and 3 teaspoon of sugar and a BIG Tablespoon of a secret ingredient my hubby makes. DO NOT ADD SALT as the concentrated chicken broth should be enough. Let this boil for about 10 minutes, while you are washing your greens. Add greens and cook to your desired tenderness, we like out somewhat crunchy, not mush. I never add more water, i allow to cook down once, with some broth (Pot Liquor) to enjoy with cornbread…They were so good, and I wish I had added carrot tops, I will next time !!!

    MY husbands secret Ingredient we use in greens and beans etc:
    my hubby grows hot peppers and puts them up and once they have set for a couple of weeks, he puts them in a blender and puree the peppers, add the vinegar juice to cover and put this into a container with a plastic lid ( to prevent lid rust & corrosion) This sits on my spice shelf, in handy reach and we use it for so many things. If you choose to make you own always remember to use a clean slotted spoon (so most vinegar drips thru) before adding to food.

    Hope everyone enjoys this and the secret Ingredient :-)


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