Sundays are my favorite day of the week. One big reason is that I get to go to The Hollywood Farmer’s Market and get inspired by all the beautiful produce that’s in season. I think it’s the best market in LA and it’s open all year. We’re spoiled here in southern California.
This past weekend, I bought some amazing heirloom carrots and fell in love with the fronds. So often, carrot tops are discolored and a bit worn looking but these were just fluffs of beauty I couldn’t resist.
It took me all of about a second to decide that I was going to make these beauties into a pesto after I realized I had some pine nuts in the freezer. I had also gotten a bunch of different herbs at the market so I was all set.
Carrot fronds are completely edible and taste well, like a carrot but slightly bitter. To mellow out the bitterness, I decided to combine them with fresh mint, parsley and cilantro (my favorite herbs!) and a good amount of lemon juice & zest. I also added a tablespoon of ume vinegar (comes from the Japenese umeboshi plum and is super salty) to give the pesto some extra depth of flavor. And of course, lots of garlic.
I roasted the whole carrots that were left and poured the pesto on top once they were done cooking. It was simple and delicious. The following night, I used the leftovers on some spiralized zucchini noodles (aka zoodles, a great low-carb option to pasta) after I’ve sauteed them up with some baby tomatoes and white beans for protein. The pesto would also be great slathered on a veggie burger, as a crudite for veggies, or over some regular pasta too.
One other thing to note about the tops is that they are also chock full of nutrition: high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. So next time you pick up some carrots – don’t throw away the tops! Make them your new springtime cooking companion.
What are you going to do with your pesto? I want to know! Post your pictures on Instagram and tag me @food_by_bri. Can’t wait to see what you do!
Springtime Carrot Top Pesto Recipe
Springtime Carrot Top Pesto
- 1 blender
- 1 cup carrot fronds removed from thick stems
- 1/2 cup fresh mint
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro or swap with basil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or pumpkin seeds toasted
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tablespoon of ume vinegar or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp sea salt
- juice & zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Toast your pine nuts on a low flame on the stove top being careful not to burn them. Should only take about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
- Coarsely chop your herbs and garlic, zest and juice your lemon, and toss everything into your blender. Add in the pine nuts and ume vinegar and begin blending on low speed slowly turning it up while you pour in the olive oil. Blend for about a minute and you’re done.
- Freshness is key: Use the freshest carrot tops you can find for the brightest flavor. They should be green and lively, not wilted or yellowing.
- Balance the bitterness: Carrot tops can have a slightly bitter edge, so balance them with other ingredients. Adding a sweet element like roasted garlic or a splash of honey can complement their earthiness.
- Choose your nuts wisely: Traditional pesto uses pine nuts, but feel free to experiment with walnuts, almonds, or even sunflower seeds for a different taste and texture.
- Cheese choices: While Parmesan is a classic choice, other hard cheeses like Pecorino Romano can offer a sharper bite that pairs well with the robust flavor of carrot tops.
- Consistency control: Adjust the amount of olive oil based on how you plan to use the pesto. A thicker consistency is great for spreading on sandwiches, while a thinner one works well as a pasta sauce.
Serving Springtime Carrot Top Pesto is a delightful way to welcome the freshness of the season onto your plate. The vibrant green hue of the pesto, made from the often-discarded tops of carrots, brings a sense of renewal and sustainability to the table. I enjoy drizzling it over freshly cooked pasta, letting the warmth gently coax out its earthy flavors. It’s equally enchanting when spread on crusty bread or as a bright accent atop grilled chicken or fish.
For a more interactive experience, I love to present it as part of a platter with an array of dippers—crisp vegetables, pita chips, or artisan crackers. This not only showcases the versatility of the pesto but also encourages guests to explore their own preferred pairings.
The act of sharing this pesto feels like offering a piece of spring itself, a gesture that celebrates the season’s bounty and our commitment to using every part of the produce we cherish. It’s a simple yet profound way to connect with the natural world and the companionship of those gathered around the meal.
Top 5 FAQs about Springtime Carrot Top Pesto
- What is the flavor profile of carrot top pesto compared to traditional basil pesto? Carrot top pesto has a more earthy and slightly bitter taste compared to the sweet and fresh flavor of traditional basil pesto. The carrot greens impart a distinct herbaceous quality, which can be balanced with the addition of nuts, cheese, and citrus.
- How do you properly prepare carrot tops for pesto? It’s important to wash the carrot tops thoroughly to remove any dirt or grit. Trim away any tough stems, as they can be fibrous, and use only the tender leaves and smaller stems. Blotting them dry before use helps prevent a watery pesto.
- Can I use other nuts instead of pine nuts in the pesto? Absolutely! While pine nuts are traditional in pesto, walnuts, almonds, or even sunflower seeds can be used as substitutes. Each nut offers a different flavor profile and texture, so you can experiment to find your preferred taste.
- Is it possible to make carrot top pesto without cheese for a vegan version? Yes, you can omit the cheese or replace it with nutritional yeast or a vegan cheese alternative to maintain the creamy texture and savory flavor that cheese typically provides in pesto.
- How should I store carrot top pesto, and how long will it last? Carrot top pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. To extend its shelf life, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag, where it can be kept for several months. When ready to use, simply thaw the amount needed.
In conclusion, Springtime Carrot Top Pesto is a vibrant celebration of resourcefulness and the arrival of spring. It’s a dish that speaks to the heart of sustainability, transforming what might otherwise be discarded into a culinary delight. The bright, herbaceous flavor of the carrot tops, balanced with the richness of nuts and cheese, creates a pesto that is both unique and familiar.