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:
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:
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.)