Carrots are harvested nearly all year long in Southern California.

Mar2014YogifoodCarrots

I often accumulate an abundance of them from my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box and run out of ideas for what to do with them. As a member of the parsley family, the carrot tops have cleansing benefits along with being a rich source of a variety vitamins and minerals (such as iron, calcium, and magnesium), so I’ve always felt guilty tossing them in the trash or compost pile. Their nutrient-dense values also make them powerful for rejuvenation, especially after a long run (think the LA Marathon) or an epic session on the yoga mat at home or on retreat.

I finally set out to see what the benefits of carrot tops really are, and to find new uses for them and their roots.

The tops make a great garnish and can even withstand the heat from cooking better than parsley. When added to carrot juice, the leaves help to minimize the root’s natural sweetness and glycemic impact while maximizing nutritive value. The best use I’ve found for carrot greens is as a substitute for basil in pesto sauce. An added bonus: while basil typically turns black in the fridge, the carrot tops retain their vibrant green color when chilled, so carrot top pesto looks, stores, and tastes better longer. Due to the bitter nature of the carrot tops or greens, I  balance them with naturally sweeter macadamia nuts in place of pesto’s pine nuts. The result is delicious, especially when:

  • Dipped and eaten with crudites, including sliced carrot, celery, and jicama.
  • Diluted with a little vegetable broth and tossed with carrots, mushrooms, asparagus, and penne for a pasta dish.
  • Swirled into a bowl of vegetable soup for an affordable take on the French “Soupe au Pistou.”
  • Spread atop lavash bread, layered with caramelized grated carrots and cheese for a “carrot top-and-bottom pesto pizza,” (recipe follows below.)

 

According to Paul Pitchford in Healing with Whole FoodsAsian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, carrot greens (considered a bitter food in Asian lore) are a tonic to help renew the heart and arteries. They even promote centering, which is much needed in the winter. High in minerals and chlorophyll, carrot tops serve as a nutrient-rich addition to soups, broths, and juices while supporting the liver and cleansing the blood and lymphatic fluid. The deeply-colored greens are rich in the green pigment chlorophyll, which studies have shown helps reduce tumor growth. Chlorophyll is also a source of the essential mineral magnesium and is beloved for its detoxifying qualities as well as its ability to help bolster performance and enhance electrolyte balance. Instead of composting this bitter green, enjoy its benefits with this savory carrot-top-and-bottom pesto pizza.

 

Carrot Top-and-Bottom Pesto Pizza

 

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yields: 6 servings (plus leftover pesto)
Ingredients: Carrot Top Pesto* (about 2 cups):1 handful raw macadamia nuts, halves or pieces (about 1/3 cup)3 cloves garlic, peeled

1½ cups fresh carrot tops, rinsed thoroughly (about 1 bunch, roughly chopped)

½ cup olive oil, (add a tablespoon as needed)

½ tsp coarse ground sea salt

¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper

 

Cumin-Scented Carrot Roots:

2-3 large organic carrots

2 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil

1 tbsp ground cumin

½ tsp crushed red chili flakes, optional and to taste

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp crushed black pepper

 

Pizza:

1 whole-wheat lavash* flatbread

6 oz smoked mozzarella, or other cheese of your preference (including vegan cheese), grated

Directions:
  1. Make carrot-top pesto: In a food processor or Vitamix, process macadamia nuts, carrot tops, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper until smooth, adding an additional drizzle of olive oil (as needed to blend well). Taste and adjust seasoning.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and prepare a sheet pan or baking sheet.
  3. Prep carrot roots: Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat; grate carrots on a box grater (no need to peel if organic), and place in the skillet. Season with cumin, chili flakes, salt, and pepper and sauté while stirring until browned and caramelized, about five minutes.
  4. Unfold lavash or other bread, place on baking sheet, and thinly spread about half the pesto over it. Scatter the cumin-scented carrots over the pesto, and top carrots with grated cheese. Bake for five minutes or until cheese is melted and lavash edges are lightly browned and crispy.
Notes *Refrigerate leftovers for up to week.**Lavash is a Middle Eastern flatbread that serves as a super-thin pizza crust. Can’t find it or prefer gluten-free? Substitute your favorite pizza crust, bread, or tortilla..

 

 

Red Jen Ford is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Yoga Instructor, and Seasonal Eating Expert. Jen teaches her clients the benefits and simplicity of eating local, sustainably grown food. Enjoy more of her dishes in her seasonal recipe booklets or her online course, Simply in Season – Fall Recipes to Celebrate Healthy, Easy Seasonal Food. Redjenford.com

 

 

Nutrition Reference:

Healing with Whole Foods Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford, 3rd edition 2002, pp 167, 355, 539