My maternal grandmother was born and raised in the 1920’s during the Depression. She was frugal beyond belief, able to stretch food like no one’s business and could repurpose leftovers in extremely creative and, more important, delicious ways.
Sometimes when I am cooking, I think of her and wonder what she would do with certain foods that stump me. As a locavore, I want to use the greens from the beets in salads, or wilt the tender kohlrabi greens in the cooked kohlrabi to add powerful nutrients and color. I love to peel the rind off of lemons, thinly chiffonade the rind and then add to salads for a bright burst of flavor.
Every time I come home with a beautiful bunch of farm fresh carrots, I chop the greens and toss them in the compost pile. It’s been years that the reality of tossing the tops has weighed heavily on my mind and heart, but I never knew how to use them.
Until now. A friend and weekly farmers market customer recently told me about how she makes carrot top pesto.
I loved the idea and couldn’t wait to give it a try, especially since I have a thing for homemade herbaceous concoctions and spreads. Years ago, in May 2010, I shared with you how to make chimichurri which pairs beautifully with grilled meats.
The thought of using carrot tops to make pesto makes me giddy with excitement. And I was more than happy when I tasted it. The trick? Add some basil to give it the “pesto” flavor.
The next time you bring home a bunch of gorgeous, farm fresh carrots, think about repurposing the tops and whip up this tasty and sustainable version of pesto. You’ll feel great knowing the tops went to better use than enriching your compost bin and you can serve it along with the story of how you made it.
Carrot Top Pesto
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts walnuts or pecans also work
- 1 clove garlic large
- 2 cups fresh carrot tops rinsed and dried
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves packed
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and maybe another tablespoon or so if needed
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pine nuts or nuts of choice on a baking sheet or a piece of aluminum foil and toast in the oven just until fragrant or golden brown, about 10 minutes or less. Remove the nuts from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Pulse the toasted nuts and garlic in the food processor until they become paste-like.
Add carrot tops, basil, Parmesan and juice of 1 lemon and process until it all comes together into a thick paste. Add the olive oil and pulse until combined, adding a little more olive oil if needed. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper and pulse again to combine.
Place pesto in a jar and use as a spread for sandwiches, dip for vegetables, with pasta, etc. Refrigerate the pesto and use within two weeks.