No-Waste Recipe: Vegan Carrot Top Pesto
by Emily Nachazel
When I was growing up my family had a small garden in our backyard. We’d grow herbs and tomatoes, and one year we even planted carrots. I remember waiting patiently as the carrot tops poked their way out of the ground, each week asking my mom, “How do we know when the carrots are ready? Can we dig them up now?” It felt like magic when we finally did pull those carrots up, seeing what had been growing under the earth for so long.
These days I’m no urban gardener (maybe one day!), but I do try to shop mostly at the farmer’s market and the Co-op, which allows me to feel some of that magic, that connection to my food that I felt during my childhood years.
One of the best things about shopping at the Co-op is that the produce is so fresh, and that you get to see fruits and veggies in their real form - stalks of Brussels sprouts, tomatoes still on the vine, flowering herbs and, of course, carrots with their tops still intact.
It’s been rumored that carrot tops are poisonous, but that’s just not true. In fact, they are very edible and loaded with vitamins (A, B6,K) and minerals(manganese, niacin, potassium and thiamin). The taste is reminiscent of parsley; they can be eaten raw but they’re quite bitter, so I like cooking them up with garlic and olive oil, or whipping them into a yummy pesto that’s slightly more herbaceous than a traditional pesto.
The pesto recipe below is vegan and calls for nutritional yeast, a non active yeast used by vegans and vegetarians for its “cheesy” flavor. If you can’t find nutritional yeast (we do sell it at the co-op!), or don’t care to make this dairy free, feel free to swap for an equal amount of good Parmesan cheese.
1/3 cup macadamia nuts, pecans or walnuts (you can also use roasted pumpkin seeds for a nut-free version!)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups carrot tops
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 - 3/4 cup good quality olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Pulse nuts and garlic in your food processor or high speed blender until a coarse paste forms. Add basil, nutritional yeast, carrot tops and lemon juice, and again pulse until everything is well combined.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can keep the pesto thick and chunky if you plan to use as a spread or dip, or keep pulsing and adding olive oil for a thinner sauce.
Spoon pesto into a glass jar and top with olive oil so the pesto is completely covered (this will keep it fresher!). Store in the fridge for up to a week or freezer for 6 months.
Serving suggestions: use as an herbaceous spread on homemade pizza or sandwiches, toss in pasta (equally delicious warm or cold in a pasta salad), serve as a dip for fresh veggies or sauce for roasted veggies (try on roasted carrots), or spice up your scrambled eggs with a spoonful. All of which can be made using products from our own co-op!