Safety & Uses for Carrot Tops

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Eat Your Carrot Green Tops (the leaves) - Yes You Can!!

PLEASE NOTE: The Carrot Museum does not recommend self diagnosis or self medication. The information contained in this web site has not been verified for correctness. Some of the information contained herein is hearsay and may not be correct. Use the information from this page only at your own risk!  If in doubt consult a doctor. (This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. The Carrot Museum does not claim responsibility for this information.)

Note: If you have diabetes it is recommended you read this before eating carrots.
Speak to your doctor or health-care provider about vitamin A rich carotenoids if you have diabetes or are at risk of developing the condition

Recipes/Uses Here - Make a Dye - WW2 recipe - Nutritional valueMedicinal Use - Health Benefit - TeaPesto

Important Note - the safety of carrot tops.  There are a few reports of people having an adverse reaction to the consumption of carrot tops – this could be due to a variety of circumstances and variables - the individual metabolism, the carrots themselves and variables (such as organic or not).  As you research this matter you find many people make arguments on both sides and it is recommended that you do your own research on their safety.  If in doubt take the advice of your own health professional. As far as the Carrot Museum is aware no Government agency has banned their consumption or issued warnings of any hazards.

Many people, and especially the media believe that carrot tops are poisonous and potentially deadly, but that’s actually not true.

carrot leaves

In fact, they are edible and loaded with vitamins and minerals. There is a persistent belief that the alkaloids in carrot tops make them slightly dangerous for consumption, but this isn’t really true, as alkaloids are a substance found throughout nearly every leafy green vegetable.

Carrot greens are the most under-exploited class of greens despite their high nutritional value. When we think about carrots, we tend to only remember the colourful roots of its various varieties.

The feathery green leaves make up nearly half of the weight of the carrot but rarely reach the markets or our plates. They are often discarded after harvest to improve the shelf life of the roots, and merely used as animal and poultry feed. But they have the potential to increase food diversity for human beings, not to mention their huge nutritional value. 

Carrot leaves, just like the roots, are rich in vitamin A. Carbohydrates and Protein account for 60 per cent and 20 per cent respectively of the leaves’ dry weight, as per a study published in the Journal of Food and Dairy Sciences in April 2011. The leaves have potassium that lowers blood pressure, supports metabolism and prevents osteoporosis. (Goneim, & A., Gehan & Ibrahim, & Y., Faten & Elshehawy, Shady & Sh.M,. (2011). Carrot leaves: antioxidative and nutritive values.. J. of Food & Dairy Sciences, Mansoura Univ.. 2. )

Carrot tops also contain calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Given that they are rich in natural antioxidants, carrot-green extracts are often added to commercial food products. No wonder health food enthusiasts and foragers use them in herbal teas, soups and salads.

A lot more information here, particularly on preservation -

This popular myth of inedible carrot leaves has been perpetuated through continual hearsay and personal anecdotes, but little scientific study to prove or disprove it. This has been a matter of debate for many years and the controversy and misguidance seems to continue. While it is true that carrot tops contain alkaloids and nitrates to which some people can be sensitive, they aren’t inherently toxic to most of us unless we eat them by the wheelbarrow-full.  The main reason there are conflicting reports is that there are poisonous look-a-likes that are often mistaken for Wild Carrot, please be familiar with all the characteristics of this wonderful wild edible before you enjoy them.  I can only refer to the scientific reports at the end of this page. I believe that the issue arose because the leaves contain alkaloids, a group of organic compounds that contain such nasty poisons as strychnine, cocaine, and caffeine.

Carrot leaves have a mildly bitter, earthy flavour reminiscent of the root with a spicy after taste, similar to mustard leaves.  Humans tend to associate bitterness with toxicity, but as it turns out, these greens are edible and do not pose a threat to health. Due to their mild bitterness, however, they are rarely considered for consumption.

There is further information here from the Well Preserved Blog - Are Carrot Greens Toxic? Deadly? Edible?  Many farmers consider that the greens will not be ultimately consumed and could well therefore apply pesticide sprays to them.

Yes you can! Included in the carrot family - Apiaceae ("umbellifers") - are the well-known plants: angelica, anise, arracacha, asafoetida, caraway, carrot, celery, Centella asiatica, chervil, cicely, coriander (including cilantro), cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock, lovage, Queen Anne's lace, parsley, parsnip, sea holly, and the now extinct silphium.  Some of this family are poisonous, but not carrot!

Carrot tops ARE edible and are highly nutritive, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. They contain 6 times the vitamin C of the root and are a great source of potassium and calcium. The tops of the carrots are loaded with potassium which can make them bitter, so the use of them in food is limited, but there some ideas and recipes below.  The leaves do have antiseptic qualities and can be juiced and used as a mouthwash.

The leaves of carrot (Daucus carota L.), are, more often than not, wasted. Carrot leaves are very rich in both nutrients such as vitamin C, β-carotene, fibers and several minerals such as Na, P, K, Ca, Mg, Mn, Zn, and Fe . They have a pleasant taste and characteristics suitable for processing. They may be used as a raw basis for the preparation of several foods. The use of the byproducts of the vegetable industry has presented technological viability, and they have been used for the formulation of cream soups made of dehydrated vegetable stalks.

This 2011 report  concluded that (1) carrot leaves had high protein, carbohydrate and potassium content. So it could be used in several bakery products such as cakes, (2) Addition of 0.10% acetone carrot leave extract as a natural antioxidant equal the action of 200ppm of TBHQ as an artificial antioxidant in delaying oxidative rancidity until 45 days at 63°C. (Goneim, & A., Gehan & Ibrahim, & Y., Faten & Elshehawy, Shady & Sh.M,. (2011). Carrot leaves: antioxidative and nutritive values.. J. of Food & Dairy Sciences, Mansoura Univ.. 2. ) Table from this report-

nutrient content of carrot leaves

Some clear benefits to the human body:

Carrot tops have high chlorophyll content that may help heal skin and rid the body of toxins.

They are high in potassium and help keep your blood pressure levels in control.

They have detoxifying effects and are excellent for your kidneys.

They are rich in vitamin K as well. Vitamin K is responsible for blood clotting and regulating blood calcium levels.

Carrot leaves: antioxidative and nutritive values April 2011 (Goneim, Gohan et al, Journal of Food and Dairy Sciences 2(4) Follow journal DOI: 10.21608/jfds.2011.81946) 

The above study was carried out for chemical assess of yellow carrot leaves and possibility to use its methanol and acetone extracts as a new source of natural antioxidants instead of artificial antioxidants due to its negative effect on human health. So chemical composition of carrot leaves were estimated, as well as methanol and acetone extracts content of phenolic compounds using liquid chromatography and also, antioxidant activity of both extracts were studied prior to the sunflower oil stored in opened bottles stored at 63°C as an oxidation accelerated conditions for 60 days using acid number, peroxide value, antioxidant effectiveness and thiobarbituric acid value changes. Obtained results showed that carrot leaves could be considered as a source of carbohydrates and protein, which represented 61.36% and 20.27% (dry weight), respectively.

Also it was a good source of some minerals such as potassium (975.00 ppm). It was observed that extraction efficiency of methanol was higher than acetone where, it contained 82.07 mg/ml total phenols as galic acids. Both of two extracts had antioxidant effect. It was found that there were no significant differences between control treatment and all treatment up to 45 days of storage and the best antioxidant effectiveness was observed for D treatment (0.15% acetone extract) compared with other treatments. The results also showed that thiobarbituric acid values did not show significant differences between all treatments up to 30 days of storage and it ranged between 0.515 to 0.788 mg malonaldehyde/kg oil. Therefore, it was recommended to use carrot leaves as a new source of natural antioxidants, as well as source of some minerals to fortify some food products.

It is acknowledged that there have been accounts of people getting sick from eating carrot tops.

This is entirely possible but it is also possible that these people have either an allergy or an intolerance to carrot tops. There’s an important distinction between food allergy and food intolerance. Carrot Tops are loaded with vitamins and minerals. There is a persistent belief that the alkaloids in carrot tops make them slightly dangerous for consumption, but this isn’t really true, as alkaloids are a substance found throughout nearly every leafy green vegetable.

Food allergy causes an immune system response to a particular food protein; the immune system overreacts and interprets the food as harmful, resulting in itching, swelling, trouble breathing, and even death in extreme cases. (read more about carrot allergy here)

Food intolerance occurs when the body lacks an enzyme to process a particular food, causing unpleasant symptoms like nausea, abdominal cramping, or acid reflux; these are not immune system responses and are not life-threatening. Another reaction with similar symptoms is food poisoning, which is caused by bacteria or toxins.

Carrot LeavesThis may be possible with commercial carrots that have been heavily sprayed with pesticides (since the greens are most affected), but likely not a problem with organic or home grown carrots.

A true food allergy to carrots is uncommon, but an interesting reaction called oral allergy syndrome (OAS) can occur in people who are allergic to birch pollen and mugwort pollen. The major allergen in carrots, a protein called Dau c 1, is so similar in structure to the molecules in birch pollen and mugwort pollen that the body can’t tell the difference. That means if you have an allergy to either, eating carrots can trigger a reaction in the form of itching or swelling of the mouth or throat. According to WebMD, the symptoms of OAS become less severe when you cook the trigger food because heat alters the offending protein. All this basically means a person could have an unexpected cross-reactive allergy, food allergy, or food intolerance to carrot tops (as one might have with dairy or wheat) — but that does not make them toxic.

If carrot greens are toxic or "poisonous" then one would think that USDA or the UK Department of Agriculture would have concerns and introduce regulations to prevent stores from selling them, or at least enforce the display of a warning notice? One of the leading US food scientists, Harold McGee) has declared them as safe. People say "you don't see them in the supermarket" - very true - but this is mainly because the greens continue to draw moisture from the root and therefore dry out the carrot more quickly, and hence removed to improve shelf life.  In fact some supermarkets DO sell them with the tops attached, usually at a premium price.

The curator of the Carrot Museum has visited many stores, markets, farmers markets of all sizes in 25 countries of the world and NEVER seen them banned or warned against.

Flavour and Nutrition -

Nutrients - Carrot greens contain an impressive list of nutrients, including significant amounts of vitamin A, dietary fibre, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. There is no fat or cholesterol in these greens, and there are roughly 90 calories in 1 cup of these raw greens. These greens also contain vitamin K and various phenolic compounds and carotenoids, along with trace amounts of other antioxidants.

(Reference - J. Agric. Food Chem.200755156395-6400

Carrot tops have a peppery flavour, similar to arugula or parsley and can bring that same sort of spice to a range of dishes. When cooking with them, remove the fibrous stems, as you would any other tender herb such as parsley or dill.

These greens are packed with chlorophyll, a phytochemical that gives plants their green colour and pigmentation. Chlorophyll is an excellent source of magnesium, which promotes healthy blood pressure as well as strong bones and muscles, and has been noted to purify the blood, lymph nodes and adrenal glands

They are high in potassium, which can lower blood pressure, support your metabolism, and help prevent osteoporosis. People most at risk for heart disease are the ones who get too little potassium.

What's more, carrot greens are rich in vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself and is vital to bone health. They have also been noted to deter tumour growth.

A simple use of them is to mix some in with a mixed green salad, or add to coleslaw. You may also use it for garnish. Combine your common sense and your creative skills, and invent something! That's what makes cooking fun. It is a form of art.  Carrot greens are high in vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself.

Carrot tops are an outstanding source of chlorophyll, the green pigment that studies have shown to combat the growth of tumours. Chlorophyll contains cleansing properties that purify the blood, lymph nodes, and adrenal glands. Scientists have been unable to synthesize chlorophyll in the laboratory, but green plant foods contain sufficient quantities to protect the human body.

The leaves do contain furocoumarins that may cause allergic contact dermatitis from the leaves, especially when wet. Later exposure to the sun may cause mild photodermatitis. (This is NOT the same as 'poisonous' - it will only affect susceptible people with allergies to the plant. Some people have the same reaction to yarrow, ragwort, chamomile etc.)

Carrot leaves contain significant amounts of porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary gland and lead to the release of increased levels of sex hormones.

There is a distinct difference between toxins and allergens. Carrots (Daucus carota), whether wild or domesticated, are not toxic, they are allergenic. This is like peanuts, which are not toxic but can kill those who are allergic to them.
It is however  important that any wild plant be positively identified before it is used for food. The tiny tops have tiny almost feathery branches. Carrot seedlings look a lot like bindweed. It takes a while to figure out the differences. Bindweed is redder and the leaf arrangement looks sort of branchy.

Also watch the video link on the cultivation page.

The US Army Survival Handbook 2008, Department of the Army states - Worms or intestinal parasites – using moderation treatment with tea made from Tansy (tanacetum vulgare) or from wild carrot leaves. Also Gas and cramps - Use a tea made from carrot seeds as an antiflatulent.

Poison Hemlock connection - The belief that carrot greens are poisonous may stem from their close botanical proximity to poison hemlock, but I have been unable to find any reported instances of carrot greens poisoning (as opposed to speculation about carrot greens as a poison). Although numerous gardening and amateur cooking sites cite the edibility of carrot greens. 

Several poison control centres are silent on the matter. Many eat carrot greens regularly, both in salads and soups and have lived to tell the tale. Mild toxicity is a very wide term and not defined.  Some people are allergic to carrot greens which can cause a skin rash, but not by ingestion.

There is an allergenic substance in carrot tops, but for most of the population they are harmless and healthy. Carrot tops (even without carrots) are market vegetables in France, French cookbooks have recipes how to prepare them, they have been eaten for a long time.

If you notice the carrot greens taste more noticably bitter, however, you may want to steer clear. Alkaloids – which often are toxic, to varying degrees – generally have a bitter taste. Not all alkaloids are so toxic that you can’t consume them – caffeine, for example, is an alkaloid that many people consume daily, and the alkaloid tomatine in tomato leaves appears to be harmless in small quantities

There is a distinct difference between toxins and allergens. Carrots (Daucus carota), whether wild or domesticated, are not toxic, they are allergenic. This is like peanuts, which are not toxic but can kill those who are allergic to them.

Carrot Tops are approved by the US military in their survival guide to make into a medicinal tea.

There have been accounts of people getting sick from eating carrot tops. This is entirely possible and probably even true. It’s also possible and probably true that these people have either an allergy or an intolerance to carrot tops.

Food allergy causes an immune system response to a particular food protein; the immune system overreacts and interprets the food as harmful, resulting in itching, swelling, trouble breathing, and even death in extreme cases.

Food intolerance occurs when the body lacks an enzyme to process a particular food, causing unpleasant symptoms like nausea, abdominal cramping, or acid reflux; these are not immune system responses and are not life-threatening. Another reaction with similar symptoms is food poisoning, which is caused by bacteria or toxins.

The bottom line! - is there ANY documentary evidence of anyone, ever, being poisoned by the consumption of carrot greens? If you find some please let me know.

Specific Health Benefits

1. Boost the Immune System

One of the most prominent benefits of carrot leaves is its high amount of vitamin C. It is even believed that the vitamin C contained in carrot leaves is even greater than the one in the roots, about six times more. Which is why carrot leaves could be useful additions to chicken soup or salad, because combined with other ingredients, they can work together in boosting the immune system. They are particularly useful for relieving cold and equally beneficial for skin health.

2. Help Preventing Tumour Growth

The most common compound contained in green leaves is chlorophyll. It is the one chemical that is responsible for photosynthesis as well as making the leaves of plants green. Turns out, chlorophyll also contains powerful nutrients whose main function is to prevent tumour cells from growing. Some researches suggested that carrot leaves have the ability to hinder tumour growth which in turn restricting malignant cell division.

3. Act as Mild Diuretics

Aside from preventing tumour growth, there is another benefit of chlorophyll contained in carrot leaves. Though may not widely known, chlorophyll in fact can act as a mild diuretic, which helps in stimulating the outflow of bodily fluid in the form of urine.

4. Aid in Detoxification

Chlorophyll also has detoxifying effect to our bodies, which explain the similar effect found in other green leaves such as green tea. The detoxifying effect in turn helps the kidney to filter harmful substances in our blood, consequently preventing the formation of kidney stones as well as dissolving those already present.

5. Support the Digestive System

The benefits of chlorophyll goes along the way. As it turned out, the detoxifying properties of chlorophyll also help in cleansing the colon as well as relaxing it. Combined with the dietary fiber normally found in greens, they work together in stimulating bowel movement, pushing out the wastes from digestion which in turn improving the absorption of nutrients.

6. Protect Heart Health

Carrot leaves is also high in potassium, which is known for its effect in regulating blood pressure. Those who are high in blood pressure usually have potassium deficiency. Therefore adding carrot leaves to our daily meal might keep our health healthy by lowering high blood pressure and thus preventing stroke commonly caused by atherosclerosis.

7. Help in Maintaining Muscles’ Endurance

Not only are carrot leaves rich in macronutrients, they also pack some minerals which work together for common good. Take for example, magnesium. This mineral is known for its role in preventing inflammation by reinforcing the muscle tissues in all over our body. Combined with other mineral such as potassium, the compound of the two can work together in strengthening muscles and improving blood flow which keep us energetic throughout the day.

8. Promote Bone Strength and Health

Not only minerals, carrot leaves also contain some beneficial vitamins, one of them is vitamin K which is important for blood clotting as well as increasing bone density. Combined with minerals such as calcium and magnesium, vitamin K can promote overall bone health as well as strength, greatly reducing the chances of bone and joint problems such as osteoporosis.

9. Help Maintaining Eye Health

Carrot leaves are as equally as nutritious as their own carrot roots! Carrot leaves do contain high amount of vitamin A which has well-known benefit of keeping eyes’ health. Which makes it a good idea to eat the carrot plants whole, roots and leaves.

10. Help Improving Blood Circulation

As discussed on earlier paragraphs, carrot leaves are rich in magnesium and potassium which work great together in keeping our blood circulations in order. Improved blood circulation also means better metabolism, sharper focus and of course essential for maintaining overall body health.

11. Regulate Blood Pressure

Both potassium and magnesium also play essential parts in keeping blood pressure in check. Multiple studies have been done to find significant correlations between magnesium intake and the reduction of blood pressure.

12. Prevent Anaemia

For those who are anaemic, consuming carrot leaves can help boosting haemoglobin productions in red blood cells, which in turn can prevent anaemia. For those who need some haemoglobin boosts but averse to blood supplements, carrot leaves can be safe and natural alternatives.

13. Serve as Menstruation Supplement

There is this kind of chemical compounds which is quite unique found in carrot leaves. They are called porphyrins, which are more commonly found in wild carrot leaves. The main function of porphyrins’ include stimulating the pituitary gland which in turn releases sex hormones.

Consequently, the hormones stimulates the uterus, which means those on their period can control their menstruation cycles. However, because it has an effect in inducing uterine contractions, it is strongly prohibited to be used by women in pregnancy.

14. Help Treating Kidney Problem

The most common trait shared by bitter greens is that they are all strong diuretics. Which means carrot leaves can be used to help stimulating the filtering process of kidneys by speeding the outflow of urine. This also serves to be solution to many kidney problems such as oedema and kidney stones.

15. Relieve Migraine Headaches

Carrot leaves are so heavy in vitamin and minerals that they can act as a natural health supplements. Not only that, they can also relieve headaches, including migraine headaches. Migraine is a kind of headaches symptom which occur on one side of the head, characterised by the agonizing pain it caused, often induces dizziness and nausea as the side effects.

The reason is because most of the time, migraines are caused by nutritional deficiencies, which also including anemia and low blood pressures. Therefore, by consuming carrot leaves, whether mixed salad or juiced together with other ingredients, might help in relieving migraines headaches and also preventing the migraines from happening again.

During World War Two the British Ministry of Food were always trying to find new recipes and alternative foodstuffs for those not available.  They came up with Carrot Tops and Potato Soup.

This is the extract from the Kitchen Front broadcast of 11 July 1942

"The other day I was looking at a row of carrots in my garden, trying to make up my mind whether or not to start thinning them. It seemed a pity to pull up the little things that were hardly fit to eat, but on the other hand if I left them any longer none of them would ever be fit to eat, so in the end I decided. to be hard and ruthless. So up they came - tiny little roots no thicker than a baby’s finger. I put those in a salad just as they were, after washing them of course, though they didn't go very far they were lovely and crunchy and sweet. The feathery green tops were still lying on the kitchen table when I came out to start the washing up after lunch.

My first impulse was to put then in the bucket for the rabbits, but on second thoughts they looked too good and tender even for my sweetest baby rabbits, so I decided to try and do something with them for supper for ourselves. What I did in the end, was to make a carrot-top and potato soup, and though it tasted quite different from anything we'd tried before, we liked it very much, and I felt extremely bucked at having invented a new dish. It was very easy to make, and this is how I did it. I happened to have some stock in the larder, so I put it in a saucepan and while it was coming to the boil chopped up the feathery carrot tops on the board, quite roughly, and peeled four large old potatoes.

As soon as the stock boiled I added the carrot tops and then the potatoes, cut into dice. Then I left the soup simmering with the lid on. After about twenty minutes the potato cubes were cooked, and I then added a little milk, and thickened the soup with some flour. A good pinch of some and it was ready. We each had a large plateful and some bread and cheese to go with it., and felt we had really discovered something – a carrot dish that did not taste at all like carrots, but was extraordinarily good all the same."

In the reign of James I,
(1603)  it became the fashion for ladies to use flowers, fruit, feathers and the like to decorate their clothes. Picture showing carrot leaves in a hatThis was amusingly extended to the use of Wild Carrot flowers and its feathery leaves and stalks to decorate their hair, hats, sleeves, dresses and coats. The lacy green foliage  was especially fashionable during the autumn months when the leaves took on a reddish colouration.  

Parkinson, the celebrated botanist to King James mentions "That in his day, ladies wore carrot leaves in place of feathers -the light feathery verdure of which caused them to be no contemptible substitute for the plumage of birds..   In winter, an elegant chimney ornament is sometimes formed, by cutting off a section from the head or thick end of a carrot, containing the bud, and placing it in a shallow vessel with water. Young and delicate leaves unfold themselves, forming a radiated tuft, of a very handsome appearance, and heightened by contrast with the season of the year."

Carrot greens have antiseptic qualities, so they have been added to mouthwashes and, mixed with honey, to disinfect sores. They are also diuretic (increase urine flow), and can help treat kidney disease and edema.

Chewing carrot leaves can heal injuries in the mouth, bad breath, gum bleeding and mouth ulcers.

As a matter of interest it was Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-c. 90) who catalogued over 600 medicinal plant species and said that the Greeks used carrot leaves against cancerous tumours. So you could always try that too!

Also in 1578 Henry Lyte wrote - The greene leaves of Carrots "boiled with honey and laid to, do cleanse and mu