“What can you do with the carrot tops?” I asked a farmer who was standing behind her farm’s table at a farmers market. I held up a bouquet of carrots with lacy greens attached.
This was about nine years ago, when I had just made a commitment to buy my food from local farmers whenever possible. I quickly realized that buying local produce often meant that I got a little “bonus produce” in the form of the greens attached to the tops of root vegetables like carrots and beets. What exactly did one do with these?
The farmer explained that you can use carrot tops for a nutritious pesto, add them to soups, or, with the farmer’s permission, feed them to cows. (Cows love them, said the farmer at this particular market.) I’ve since learned that you can also use them for a creative salad or (my favorite!) chimichurri, which can then be drizzled on top of roasted carrots. Yum!
Carrot greens are on on the spicy side, a bit like mustard greens, which makes them especially good for garlicky recipes.
After mastering the art of cooking with carrot greens, I decided to ask a farmer about beet greens. “I always saute them,” she replied. “With some garlic and olive oil. That’s all you need and it’s so, so good. I serve it as a side dish.”
Since beets themselves are so tangy and earthy, I was surprised to learn that beet greens are very mild. Once I learned this, I began to sneak them into other dishes, like this Thai curry, which is flexible enough to adapt to almost any veggies you have one hand (though I probably wouldn’t throw a lot of actual beets into it).
I soon tried my newfound veggie in this simple pasta, which I especially loved because it’s a “nose-to-tail” recipe, using both roasted beets and the beet greens. It’s simple, healthy, frugal and flavorful.
- 1 bunch red beets, greens removed and saved
- ½ cup walnuts
- 8 oz goat cheese
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 12 ounces penne or other pasta
- Wrap beets with foil, drizzle with olive oil, and roast at 400 for 1 hour or until a fork can easily slip into them.
- Meanwhile, wash greens well and finely chop in a food processor. Set aside.
- Heat oil in large skillet. Add walnuts and toast, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove to a bowl.
- Add onions and saute until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
- Add chopped beet greens and garlic to onions and cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.
- When beets are roasted, remove from foil, remove skin, and cut beets into thin strips. Add beets and greens mixture to pasta. Top each bowl with walnuts and goat cheese.