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.
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.
Can you can eat the green leaves of carrots? - This popular myth 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.
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.
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!
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.
A report on the Risk of Carrots from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs records the production phase of growing carrots as a Low-High risk of contamination based on “Many agricultural chemicals applied to carrot tops would not contaminate the edible root. Contamination may occur where errors are made in application, not following product label information, or where chemicals not registered for use are used. Health Canada regulates chemicals used in the production of food (46, and 64).” This suggests we should eat organic, thus avoiding the farmers chemicals.
I have visited stores, markets, farmers markets of all sizes in 25 countries of the world and NEVER seen them banned or warned against.
The leaves of carrot ARE considered 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.
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.
Carrot greens contain alkaloids (which are toxic bitter compounds produced by a plant) and all alkaloids are bad because substances like caffeine and cocaine are alkaloids. BUT! - all leafy greens (including “good for you” greens like spinach and kale) contain varying levels and types of alkaloids, some higher than others. Alkaloids are chemical compounds believed to be part of a plant’s defence mechanisms.
This applies to both Wild Carrot leaves as well as domestic.
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.
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.
|AND MORE ON THE CONTROVERSY! -
Carrots are part of the Umbelliferae family of plants, which includes not only
the edible carrot, celery, parsnip, fennel, cumin, cilantro, and parsley, but
also the toxic hemlock. Their membership in the same family explains their
mutual affinity – who has not enjoyed the classic pairings of carrots and
parsley, carrots and cumin, or (if you like cilantro), carrots and cilantro?
These plants tend to store energy in the taproot, and have hollow stems with
ample (often flowering) greenery. The poisonous varieties can be difficult to
tell from safe wild varieties – wild carrot, for example, is almost
indistinguishable from hemlock. (read
more here on the differences and important clues to help distinguish
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.
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.
This is the extract from the Kitchen Front broadcast of 11 July 1942
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. This 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 mundifie (purify) uncleane and fretting sores" (- a type of poultice) (read more about H Lyte on a separate Museum page here)
Carrot leaves were included in the 'potherbs' of old, but originally, of course, only Queen Anne's Lace was used (QAL is Wild Carrot). They are also an ancient source for yellow dye. (read more below)
The carrot leaves are pretty, but bitter, so what about using them on something that is robust in flavour, but boring in appearance?
Carrot Tops add an earthiness to a recipe, they are ideal in soups, salads and sandwiches in small quantities.
Sprinkle some in a green salad for a great unique taste and extra crunch. If the
rough texture is not to your
liking, the leaves should be de-stemmed and chopped up finely. Try decorate
a pate with it, and glace it with aspic.
Carrot greens cooked in butter, with a little garlic or smoked bacon you don't know what you are missing!
Try sautéing the chopped carrot tops lightly in olive oil with garlic and onion. Then add other garden-grown veggies (the carrots themselves, zucchini, tomato, peppers, fresh herbs), sauté some more, then fold the entire garden mish-mash inside a whole wheat tortilla, brown it, and call it a quesadilla. Truly a great vegan treat, and the carrot tops gave a nice crunchy texture.
It is a delightful garden feast. I recommend adding your carrot tops to other things you may already have simmering on the stove.
(Note - The flower clusters can be french-fried to produce a carrot-flavoured gourmet’s delight. The aromatic seed is used as a flavouring in stews etc. The dried roasted roots are ground into a powder and are used for making coffee.)
Carrot Top Soup Recipe
6 small to medium carrots with tops and roots
World Carrot Museum Experimenter’s Pesto - have some fun with this one with several alternative ingredients - but always carrot tops
• Green tops from one bunch of carrots (from about 450g/1 pound of carrots)
• Up to 2 tbsp olive oil (to get the consistency you like) or other oil of your choice
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• 1 handful of un-processed nuts (could be walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, cashews, pistachio – or a mixture, NOT salted!)
• 2 tspn basil (dry) or handful of fresh basil leaves - preferred.
• 1 ounce of cheese (again to your taste – cheddar, parmesan etc)
• (optional) one hot pepper.
Place the carrot tops in the bowl of a food processor with the garlic, and nuts. Add 1 tbspn of oil and process. Finally whizz in the pepper if you want the pesto with a kick.
Add more oil and process till you get pesto-like consistency. More oil to be more fluid. less for more crunchy.
Add a hint of pepper to season.
Recipe by Diane Morgan from Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More Than 225 Recipes, Chronicle Books (2012)
Serve this as a dip with crudités, add a dollop on top of bruschetta that has been smeared with fresh goat cheese, or simply toss it with pasta.
1 cup lightly packed carrot leaves (stems removed) 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 large garlic clove 1/4 tsp kosher or fine sea salt 3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted (see Recipe Note) 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, and salt and process until finely minced. Add the pine nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the Parmesan and pulse just until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Makes about 2/3 cup
RECIPE NOTE Toasting pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds brings out their flavour. Spread the nuts or seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, place in a preheated 350-degree oven and toast until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the nut or seed. Watch them closely so they don’t burn.
Another pesto variation -
Carrot Greens-Basil Pesto
1 large handful carrot greens without stems Same amount fresh basil leaves 2 large garlic cloves, crushed 1/2 cup pecorino romano, freshly grated 1 large lemon, zested and juiced 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted 3/4 cup olive oil a few grinds of black pepper 1/2-1 tsp. sugar, if needed 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, if needed
Toast walnuts in small skilled until fragrant; transfer to cutting board. When cool, chop coarsely.
Place carrot greens, basil and garlic in food processor work bowl. Pulse until coarsely blended then add about 1/2 cup olive oil in a slow stream while continuously chopping. Add grated cheese, walnuts, lemon zest and juice, and black pepper; set to on and drizzle in remaining oil. Taste for balance. If needed, add sugar and/or salt; pulse to combine.
Will store in refrigerator for up to two days in a screw top jar.
Carrot Top Pesto
bowl of carrots with carrot top pesto
Ingredients •1 bunch young carrots •1 cup arugula (optional) •¼ cup almonds in shell •1-2 teaspoons green garlic •½ cup olive oil •Juice of ½ lemon •Salt and pepper to taste
1.Remove greens from carrots.
2.Blanch greens in salted water until tender and bright green.
3.Remove greens from water and shock in ice bath. Squeeze out water and set aside.
4.Repeat steps 2 and 3 with arugula, and then with carrot bottoms.
5.Blanch almonds until shells become loose. Remove almonds from water and allow to cool. Shell and set aside.
6.Combine carrot greens, arugula, garlic, almonds, olive oil, and lemon in food processor. Blend until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste.
7.Toss pesto with blanched carrots, and serve. Pesto can also be tossed with your favourite spring salads, pasta, and veggies, or spread it on a sandwich.
Carrot Top Juice (8 oz serving, number of servings: 1)
Ingredients - 4 carrots, 1 beet with greens
Carrot Top and Potato Soup
600ml/1 pint vegetarian stock
½ onion, peeled, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
1 bunch green carrot tops, chopped
1 star anise
½ potato, peeled, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
Pour the stock into a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and add the onion, garlic, carrot tops, star anise and potato.
Season to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the potato is tender.
Remove the star anise. Roughly blend the remaining mixture with a blender.
Top with a tsp of Dijon mustard, if desired.
Carrot Top Tea
Main Ingredient: Barley Whole Wheat Carrot Potatoes Pear, Yield: 6, Carrot-top soup ingredients, 1 c Black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, 1⁄2 c Dried split peas, 1⁄2 c Pearl barley, 3 qt water, 1 T Cold-pressed olive oil (or Use your favourite fat free Liquid), 1⁄2 large Onion chopped, 2 medium Carrots sliced, 4 Carrot tops (greens only Stems removed, chopped), 1 large Mustard greens chopped, 1 Leeks sliced, 1 c Green beans, broken into sections, 1 large Potato, unpeeled, diced, 1⁄2 Bay leaf, 1⁄4 t thyme, 1⁄4 t tarragon, 1⁄4 t Savory, 1 tsp Salt, 1 pinch Pepper.
Carrot Green, Parsley & Hazelnut Pesto for Pasta
Great way to use up those carrot greens.
¾ cup hazelnuts (or mixture of hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts) 1/8 cup organic carrot leaves, chopped 1/8 cup organic parsley, chopped 1 clove garlic juice of 1 lemon ¼-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil ½ cup fresh-grated parmesan cheese generous pinch of sea salt.
Toast the nuts at 325ºF for a few minutes to bring out the flavour. In a food processor, puree the nuts, carrot leaves, parsley leaves, lemon juice and garlic.
Pour in cheese, salt, and olive oil, starting with ¼ cup. Blend, and increase olive oil if the pesto is too thick. Cook pasta (450g) until al dente, drain and toss with pesto while still hot.
(Excellent with a few handfuls of cooked pole beans thrown in as you toss with the pesto.)
Celery root salad with carrot top vinaigrette
Total time: 20 minutes -
Whole carrot salad - tabouleh style
A delicious way to use the leaves of carrots - serves 2-4, depending on the size of carrots
3 carrots with their leaves
Preparation: Chop the carrot roots (with their peel on if they are organic) in the food processor (pulse) until they have a couscous texture. Put aside in a bowl. Chop finely the carrot leaves with a knife, like you would do with parsley. Remove the hard stems if there are any. Add to bowl with the carrot “couscous”, raisins and chopped mint leaves. Season to taste with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. The carrot leaves taste delicious, so don’t hesitate to put in more.
Carrot Top Scramble
1 tbsp olive oil
Carrot Top And Rice Soup (Tuscan)
Gumbo Z'herbes Recipe – A New Orleans Delight!
Coming from the French gumbo aux herbes, this gumbo is the green variety to which several greens are used in the roux to make the ideal meat-free meals for Good Friday, Holy Thursday and the entire stretch of Lent! Serves 12.
1 large or two small ham shanks or hocks
At least seven varieties of the following greens: 1 bunch greens, either mustard, collard or turnip or a combination of all three 1 bag fresh spinach or a box of frozen 1 small head cabbage 1 bunch carrot tops 1 bunch beet tops 1 bunch Arugula 1 bunch parsley 1 bunch green onions 1 bunch watercress 1 head romaine or other lettuce 1 head curly endive 1 bunch kale 1 bunch radish tops
3 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
1/2 head garlic, peeled, cloves kept whole
2 lbs. fresh hot sausage (a local sausage called chaurice is best, but Italian without fennel works well)
1 lb. andouille sausage
1 lb. smoked pork sausage
½ lb. ham 1 lb. beef stew meat
1 cup flour Vegetable oil as needed
3 teaspoons dried thyme 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper 3 bay leaves Salt to taste
2 cups cooked white rice
½ teaspoon filé powder (optional)
1. Place ham shanks or hocks in a large, heavy stock pot. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. Wash all greens thoroughly in salt water, making sure to remove any grit, discolored outer leaves, and tough stems. Rinse in a bath of unsalted water (a clean double sink works well for this).
3. Place half the greens, half the onions, and half the garlic in a heavy-bottomed stockpot or 3–4 gallon saucepan. Cover greens and vegetables with water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20–30 minutes, until greens are very tender. When they finish cooking, transfer them to a large bowl, using a slotted spoon, to cool. Repeat the process with the remaining greens, onions and garlic, doing it in two or three batches if necessary.
4. When all the greens have finished cooking, reserve the cooking liquid.
5. Place the fresh hot sausage in a skillet or medium-size saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook until rendered of fat and moisture. Remove the hot sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve the fat.
6. While the fresh hot sausage is cooking, cut the smoked sausage and andouille into 1/2-inch rounds and set aside. Cut the ham and the beef stew meat into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.
7. In a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the greens, onion and garlic into a puree, adding cooking liquid to prevent the greens from getting too thick. Do this in batches.
8. Remove the ham shanks from their cooking liquid, reserving the liquid for stock. Once the shanks cool, pick and chop the meat and set it aside; discard the bones and the fat.
9. Pour the greens cooking liquid and ham stock into separate bowls. Using your largest pot, or the two stockpots in which you simmered the greens and the ham, mix everything together. (Divide the pureed greens, the sausages, the beef and the chopped ham equally between the two pots, if using two pots.)
10. Fill the pot or pots with equal parts ham stock and greens cooking liquid and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
11. Heat the skillet containing the hot sausage drippings over medium-high heat. With a wooden spoon, slowly but intently stir in the flour until well combined. If the mixture is very dry, add vegetable oil until it loosens some, making a tight paste that’s still able to be stirred.
12. Continue to cook until the flour mixture begins to darken, stirring constantly. As Sara notes, you aren’t going for a dark roux, but you do want the flour to cook. Courage is the key here. Don’t be afraid to let it get dark.
13. When darkened and cooked, divide the roux between the two stockpots or put it into the single pot, dropping it in by spoonfuls and whisking to make sure that each is well incorporated.
14. Add thyme, cayenne, bay leaves and salt to taste.
15. Simmer for about an hour, or until the stew meat is tender, stirring quite often. Add more stock or water if it appears too thick. Serve over white rice.
Note: Filé in its pure form is a bright green powder made from pounded sassafras leaves. The Creoles and Cajuns picked it up from the Choctaw Indians, and used it as a spice and a thickener in the winter when okra wasn’t available. If you like it, add it slowly at the end of cooking or even stir it into your own bowl at the table.
Carrot Leaf Dye
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