May 20, 2020 at 02:34PM
If you’re a fan of baby carrots, there’s no judgment here. The dippable, pre-peeled snack is a nutritious and convenient option. But to get the most out of the vegetable, you may want to go for whole carrots—green tops included.
Though many people throw carrot greens away, they’re actually loaded with nutrients, and you can easily repurpose them in soups, sauces, salads, and more. One reason people shy away from carrot greens is because of their bitter flavor, but others have more serious concerns that they may be harmful, or even poisonous.
Can you eat carrot greens?
“Carrot greens are rumored to be toxic because they contain alkaloids,” certified nutritionist and chef Serena Poon, C.N., says, “but so do many plants that make up a standard diet, such as potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant.”
For some context: Alkaloids are organic compounds found in plants, primarily made of nitrogen. Depending on dosage, exposure time, and the sensitivity of the person consuming them, they can be either poisonous or beneficial.
While carrot greens do contain alkaloids, there is little evidence that they’re dangerous to consume.
“If you are allergic to celery or parsley—which are members of the same family as the greens—then refrain from having them,” says author of Eat Your Vitamins and registered nutritionist Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN. Otherwise, unless you eat them in extremely high amounts, she explains carrot greens have no known side effects.
Are carrot greens healthy?
While there isn’t a standard nutritional chart for carrot greens, specifically, registered dietitian Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, says, “Carrot tops, like many other leafy greens, provide a variety of nutrients such as vitamin C, chlorophyll, magnesium, and fiber.”
These nutrients are beneficial for a variety of reasons, functional medicine doctor Elizabeth Boham, M.D., M.S., R.D., explains. “Vitamin C is great for your immune system. Chlorophyll helps support the detoxification process. And fiber is great for balancing blood sugar and feeding the good bacteria in your intestines.”
Carrot greens may also contain vitamins A and K, potassium, iron, and calcium, Davis says.
How to use carrot greens.
You can use carrot greens like most herbs to garnish soups, salads, pasta dishes, and stir fries. They do tend to be bitter, though. To help cut down on the bitterness, Davis recommends blanching them.
To blanch the greens:
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and drop the greens in.
- Stir them around until they soften and become bright.
- Transfer the greens to an ice bath to shock them.
- Continue with your recipe.
Blending your greens into sauces or smoothies or sautéing them with sea salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes, can also help balance the bitter notes.
Carrot top recipes.
If you’re feeling inspired, here are a few recipes to get started:
1. Carrot greens pesto
This carrot top pesto uses olive oil, parmesan, and walnuts to replicate the salty and nutty flavor of traditional pesto, with the added nutrition of carrot greens. Use it as a sauce for pasta or spread it on toast to make bruschetta.
2. Carrot greens tabouli
Tabouli salad is beloved for its aromatic array of fresh herbs, so why not add carrot greens to the mix? Well, this carrot top tabouli does just that. Flavored with mint, parsley, lemon juice, and salt, this salad is anything but boring.
3. Carrot greens chimichurri
Chimichurri is a flavorful addition to meat dishes (most traditionally, steak), but you can also use it to dress mushroom tacos or as a dip for toasted bread. This carrot greens chimichurri is no different. The combination of spices and the acid from the white wine vinegar help balance the bitterness from the carrot tops.
4. Carrot greens harissa
This recipe uses every part of the carrot to eliminate waste. The carrots themselves are blended into a soup and then topped with a dollop of carrot greens harissa. The sauce is flavored with cilantro and mint and spiced with cumin.