Market vendors sat on the ground next to mountains of carrots, beetroots, radishes and onions. What struck me about this Moroccan market, however, wasn’t just the sheer scale of these piles of fresh vegetables, but the fact that they all had their green tops still. Bushy-tail-like carrot tops outshone and complemented the vivid colour of the carrots themselves, beetroot leaves were perky and reminded me of ruby chard, and the radish greens were crisp and appetising. Seeing all this abundance made it all too clear that this was fresh, nutritious food that’s often stripped from the plant and discarded, and not even saved for animal feed or composting into the soil. Especially once you learn that the tops and even the stalks can be whizzed up, so long as they are finely cut before blending to avoid any stringy, fibrous pieces ruining your root top pesto or salsa.
Carrot top pesto and kohlrabi salad
My sister in-law Clea Relly’s zero-waste practices are an inspiration. She’s always got a yummy pot of carrot top pesto in the fridge, on hand to use with pasta, as a dip or in sandwiches. Lots of nuts or parmesan are essential, and help give it a creamy texture. And always use no more than 50% carrot tops, or the pesto will be too bitter. In this recipe, I use kohlrabi tops, but basil, parsley or other herbs or leafy greens work just as well. Just pick whatever you’ve got that needs using up.
Wash carrot tops in plenty of fresh water, to remove any soil and sand. Shake dry, then cut out any very thick woody stalks before preparing. Make double the recipe if you, too, fancy having your batch in the fridge to use throughout the week.
For the pesto
25g carrot topsplus a few extra to garnish
25g kohlrabi tops or herbs such as parsley or basil (leaves and stalks)
1 small garlic clovepeeled and finely chopped
1 heaped tsp hazelnutsor breadcrumbs, plus 1 shelled hazelnut, to serve
1 tbsp nutritional yeast or grated parmesan
¼ unwaxed lemonzested and juiced
110ml extra-virgin olive oilplus a little extra to loosen, if need be
For the salad
1 small kohlrabi
First make the pesto. Finely chop the cleaned carrot tops and kohlrabi leaves (or herbs, including the stalks). Put the chopped greens in a food processor with the garlic clove, hazelnuts or breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast or parmesan, the lemon zest and juice, and the olive oil. Pulse-blend until the mix is a rough but even texture (add more oil to loosen, if necessary). Use at once, or keep in a clean, sealed jar in the fridge for up to a week.
To make the salad, peel the carrots and kohlrabi, then cut into ribbons. Put in a bowl with all the pesto, and toss to coat. Transfer the salad to a plate, garnish with a few extra whole carrot tops, finely grate the whole hazelnut over the top and serve, perhaps drizzled with more good olive oil.