When Life Gives You Carrot Tops, Make Pesto

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 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.

Buen provecho!

Carrot Top Pesto
The Cowgirl Gourmet adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit

Print recipe

If you love pesto and you love repurposing things, this recipe is going to make you smile. Absolutely delicious and so easy to make, this pesto using carrot tops is a winner. Use as a spread for sandwiches, add a dollop to vinaigrette, toss with pasta or serve as a condiment with roasted carrots--the possibilities are endless.

Makes 1 cup

3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 large garlic clove
2 cups fresh carrot tops, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, and maybe another tablespoon or so if needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pine nuts 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 pine 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.

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