Carrot top pesto, say what? Doesn’t pesto need to be made from basil?
Well, technically. The Italian word of pesto does refer to the blend of basil, garlic, and pine nuts that we are most familiar with, but it’s also possible to use a variety of other herbs to get a similar, or different, tasting spread. Can it officially be called ‘pesto’? I don’t know. But, pesto made from carrot tops is damn delicious.
Carrots are a staple in my kitchen. There is almost always a bag of them hanging out in my produce bin. You know the one- the 5 pounds of organic orange roots, bundled in the plastic bag that you can buy for almost nothing. I try to avoid single-use plastic like this, but because this big bag of carrots are so affordable, I make the exception.
These are carrots that seem to never go bad, perhaps growing some new root hairs while in the dark depths of the fridge, but they never go limp or moldy. Free of their tops, they are routinely added to stock and soup.
These are not the carrots you use to make carrot top pesto.
No, the recipe for my carrot top pesto came about after I got beautiful bunches of carrots in my weekly CSA box.
Carrot Tops are Edible!
For several weeks in a row, with the greens still attached, these beautiful bunches of carrots filled my box. I used the newly dug carrots in a variety of ways that I normally use carrots. I added to soups, roasted as a side dish, sliced up as a snack, juiced with ginger and orange. But each time, I tossed the greens into the compost or give to my chickens.
Buying carrots with the tops still on is how you can tell that they are really fresh. Carrots, and their greens, are best when grown and harvested in the spring and fall seasons. So now is when they are most nutritious, and the tastiest! Like the carrot roots, the tops are full of vitamins A, B, C, K, manganese, and potassium.
You don’t see carrot tops used much in recipes. Perhaps because many people are buying them from the grocery store sans tops. But, they are completely edible. Much different than the roots, they have a more herbal taste, kind of like parsley. Try them sauteed, simmered in soup, eaten raw in a salad or like this, mixed into a pesto.
So when I got a bunch of beautiful fresh and gem-like purple carrots, I just couldn’t manage to toss out the feathery fronds, once again. Even if I wasn’t wasting them, they were feeding my birds or my soil, I had to find a way to use them!
How to Make Carrot Top Pesto
If you have a food processor, making pesto of any kind is super easy. You dump your ingredients in the machine, give it some whirls, add the oil through the hole in the top, and voila! You’ve got some kick-ass pesto.
In my case, I used the leafy parts of the carrot tops (the stems went to the compost), almonds, garlic, lemon, and olive oil. When I made basil pesto, I always use tons of parmesan cheese. I bought some to use for this, but on a whim, tried it first without out. I found out that I actually liked it more. Less expensive, and healthier!? Sign me up!
If you don’t have a processor, you can do this old school, with a mortar and pestle, but I have no advice. You’re hardcore. I give you mad props. Something to note, however, is this is a small batch of pesto. I have a 4-cup mixer and it works great. If you have a larger one, the ingredients might just sit on the bottom so you’ll need to double the recipe so the blade makes contact.
How to Use Carrot Top Pesto
You can use this pesto just like you’d use normal pesto. I personally don’t like it as a pasta sauce, but I love it as a spread.
It’s also great mixed in with crème fraîche (like the leftover you might have from the stinging nettle soup) and served with roasted potatoes.
Serving idea: Roasted Carrot Tartine
Slice up some fresh carrot and toss in olive oil. Roast to desired doneness. I like mine soft and almost caramelized, about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Toast a few slices of bread. I like using a whole wheat artisan bread.
To assemble tartine, spread ricotta and pesto on bread, then layer with roasted carrots. Top with a grating of lemon zest and a sprinkle of toasted almonds.
Carrot Top Pesto Recipe
- 1 packed cup carrot tops, main stems removed
- 1 clove of garlic
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup almonds, toasted
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Add carrot tops, garlic, lemon zest and juice and almonds in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
- While running, pour the olive oil through the hole in the processor lid. Continue to puree until all ingredients are smooth and combined.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, pulse a few more times to combine.