Did you know that carrot greens are edible? In our test kitchens we started putting them in salads, adapting pesto recipes, and even sautéing them with plenty of avocado oil, a dash of balsamic glaze and lots of garlic, yummy! This carrot-greens pesto lets the entire carrot “shine bright” in taste and presentation like the healthy veggie it is.
Innovative cooks are rediscovering the wide world of leafy greens. Carrot greens are bitter, herbaceous and astringent, with a hint of sweetness in the finish. They are coarse and grainy when raw; the stems taste like celery but are too stringy to use whole like in salads but great used when blended as in this recipe.
Carrot-Greens Pesto is easy to make, healthy and a surprisingly delicious twist to the traditional basil-based version. That said, I love that you use all the pretty spring carrots and their greens, sorry compost, none of these for you.
WHAT IS CARROT GREENS PESTO?
It’s a taste explosion from an uncommon source that usually gets tossed out or fed to your pet rabbit. This recipe is similar to basil pesto only it uses carrot-greens instead of basil. AND…since I’m saucy (a real sauce lover, especially when it’s creamy) I used flavorful toasted cashews instead of pine nuts; they’re densely creamy, impart a delicious nutty flavor and a great affordable option. I’ve also made it the traditional way with and without parmesan cheese and both ways are delightful, try it both ways.
CARROT GREENS NUTRITION:
Bitter greens add a depth of flavor and complexity and they also aid digestion. Research on the nutritional value of carrot-greens reports they are rich in nutrients, containing around six times more vitamin C than the root, as well as plentiful amounts of potassium, calcium, phytonutrients, dietary fiber, iron, Vitamins C–A–K and various phenolic compounds and carotenoids and traces of other antioxidants.
CARROt GREENS HEALTH BENEFITS:
The top benefits of these greens include their healthy impact on the immunity, bone density, eye health, circulation, kidney function, blood pressure, and digestion, among others. The following is a quick overview of the many specific health benefits.
• Boosts Immune System
With known detoxifying properties, vitamin C, and a significant level of antioxidants, carrot greens can help give your immune system a boost—protecting your body against infections and foreign pathogens.
• Improves Vision
Similar to carrots themselves, the greens from this vegetable are also high in antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene–compounds that can help protect your retina from oxidative stress, while also lowering your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
• Eliminates Toxins
Studies show that the active ingredients in carrot greens are able to quickly eliminate toxins in the body and optimize kidney health.
• Regulates Blood Pressure
These greens are very high in potassium, which functions as a vasodilator in the body—helping reduce tension and strain in the blood vessels and arteries thus relieving strain on the cardiovascular system and lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke.
• Improves Bone Density
Although there aren’t as many minerals in carrot-greens as the taproot (carrot roots), the various minerals can all contribute to bone mineral density and lower your risk of osteoporosis as you age.
• Aids Digestion
The greens from a carrot can help to optimize digestion thanks to the significant level of dietary fiber, which can stimulate colon peristaltic motion and improve nutrient uptake efficiency in the gut.
Other Uses for Carrot-Greens
You can use carrot-greens in a variety of ways in the kitchen, primarily as salad greens. Due to the bitter nature of the greens, however, it is best to only use the leaves and not the stems and pair this with other sweeter ingredients, or at least a vinaigrette of some kind. You can also use these greens as a pureed topping on carrot soup, or you can mix them into couscous, hummus, or chickpea salads. These greens are great in stir-fry’s and curries and are also a popular garnish in certain cultures. Blanching the carrotgreens, by soaking them in boiling water for a few minutes, helps reduce the bitter flavor and make them tastier in meals.
Medicinally-speaking, carrot greens have been used in vegetable shakes/smoothies and juices for their dense nutritional quality and the entire stalk with stems and leaves is used.
These greens have also been used in poultices and salves in traditional medicine for generations by first blending them.
Carrot-greens have been blended into mouthwashes or as a topical wound-cleaning cream.
MAKING CARROT-GREENS PESTO
This recipe is super easy; simply add the ingredients to a food processor or small blender and blend until mostly smooth.
How long will this pesto keep?
Carrot-greens pesto, like all pesto, is best eaten fresh; however, you can store leftovers for 2-3 days in your fridge with a tight-fitting lid and preferably in glass.
- 2 bunches of carrots (1 1/2 lbs.) I like to use rainbow carrots in
- various colors or organic baby carrots
- 2 tsp. olive OR avocado oil
- 1/4 tsp. each: sea salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 cups carrot-greens (you can use some parsley if you don't have enough)
- 1/4 cup salted toasted cashews*
- 1/3 cup mild-flavored olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice (or to taste)
- 2-4 garlic cloves (or to taste) + 1 finely minced garlic clove for oil mixture
- 1/4 tsp. each: sea salt and pepper (or to taste)
- 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
*To roast your own cashews, use a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) on medium-high heat in a dry skillet. Keep stirring and roast until light golden and they emit a nice nutty aroma. To add the salt, combine sea salt in hot water and with a spray bottle coat the cashews and toss. I place the roasted cashews on a baking sheet and spray.
- . Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- . In a large bowel mix the oil, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and the minced garlic; reserve half for tossing after cooking.
- . Chop the carrots into 2-inch lengths or use organic baby carrots whole.
- . Toss the chopped carrots with the oil mixture until well coated.
- . Place oil-tossed carrots on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- . Roast the carrots for 20 minutes or until edges are brown but not burned.
- . Place the carrot-greens pesto ingredients in your food processor or small blender and blend until mostly smooth.
- . When the carrots are done cooking and edges browned, toss them in the remaining pesto mixture and serve.
DR. GLORIA'S KITCHEN NOTES:
You will have more pesto than you need for this recipe; the extra is delicious. I've served it with chicken, salmon, on eggs, in a sandwich, and tossed with pasta or zoodles.
Carrot greens tend to be leafy and delicate. These greens have long been ignored but given how versatile and packed with nutrients they are, many people are beginning to utilize these greens in their cooking and giving them new "life."