How to Use Up Carrot Greens

Whatever you're making, don't toss those tops! Skip the compost bin and try one of these clever ideas.

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You see them in knee-high piles after the twice-weekly farmers’ market in my neighborhood; the verdant remains of the day’s carrot sales. The long, lanky tops, their shiny green leaves vaguely reminiscent of Italian parsley, are mostly overlooked by home cooks and professional chefs alike. This is probably due to the unrelenting rumor about the leaves being poisonous (due to their resemblance of the extremely toxic plant Queen Anne’s Lace).

While it’s true that carrot leaves do contain alkaloids and nitrates — which some people can be sensitive to in the same way that others are sensitive to potatoes, eggplants, and other nightshade plants — they aren’t toxic unless you eat them by the bushel. They are, however, versatile and downright tasty, depending on how you prepare them.

You can use carrot greens in the same way you’d use parsley, either as a garnish, or minor player in salads, or as the no-holds-barred star of the culinary show. From carrot-top pesto to carrot-greens soup, the possibilities are vast and varied, and come with a nutritional bonus: They’re packed with potassium, chlorophyll, and other nutrients with health-supporting benefits. 

This simple salad marries carrot greens with the humble chickpea and a dash of cumin to unite the flavors and textures. Try bringing a bowlful to your next potluck and having your friends guess the ingredients.

Warm Chickpea and Carrot-top Salad

Serves 4

1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 medium onion, minced
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained
1 cup finely chopped carrot greens,
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste

Heat oil over medium heat. Add cumin, and sauté 1 minute, or until fragrant. 
Add onion and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. 
Add chickpeas and sauté until heated through and any liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and add carrot greens. Toss, then transfer to a serving bowl and season with lemon juice and salt before serving.