Last week at our local farmer’s market I was taken by surprise. Crowds arrived early creating lines at most stands. After a first pass at a few of my usual stops, something caught my eye. A local grower from Irving was offering freshly pulled carrots straight from her garden. While that may not seem unusual, it was the carrot tops that made me swoon. Lush and lovely, their feathery formation in vibrant shades of green jogged my memory.
A few weeks earlier, my husband and I had dinner at one of our favorite Dallas restaurants. Janice Provost, chef/owner of Parigi’s, is a good friend who loves to “talk garden” with me and enjoys sourcing locally grown, fresh produce. That night she was featuring an appetizer we decided to try.
Appropriately named, our ‘Garden Board Special’ with Carrot Top Pesto was stunning. A colorful combination of bread “planks” slathered with whipped feta and cream cheese then topped with perky little red and yellow cherry tomatoes tumbling across the next layer had us drooling. The finishing touch was a light sprinkling of micro greens drizzled with carrot top pesto. For me, the meal was complete, and a new pesto experience stayed in my head.
It must have been somewhat providential that those carrots spoke to me at the market, but it was also the surprising discovery of locally grown edible purslane that motivated me to recreate our appetizer experience. And, thankfully, I had stumbled upon the necessary ingredients to complete the task.
Here is my slightly adapted version of the pesto. If you find it intriguing, start thinking now about your fall carrot crop and a flavorful new way to use them from top to bottom. And, check back in early January for a preview of our ‘Grow and Graze’ lineup of 2021 classes.
Carrot Top Pesto
1 cup carrot tops (lightly packed)
½ cup flat-leaf parsley or fresh spinach
¼ cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
½ cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lightly toast the walnuts over medium heat until they start to become fragrant. Stir constantly, toasting just until slightly golden brown.
In a food processor, pulse all the ingredients, including the toasted walnuts, until everything is well-combined and forms a coarse paste. For a thinner pesto, add a few more tablespoons of olive oil, one at a time, until reaching a desired consistency.
Serve over roasted vegetables, soups, baked chicken, or fresh tomatoes.
*Substitute pecans or pine nuts, if desired.
This summer, in the edible landscape, we took the advice of Dallas County Interim Extension Agent, Jeff Raska, and let our carrots grow for two seasons. By early summer we were treated to a carrot blossom extravaganza. Beautiful umbel-shaped blossoms soon became lovely spherical, lacy white flowers ready for both the bees and our garden guests to enjoy. We’re now using those delicate Queen Anne’s Lace looking flowers as a topper for salads, soups and appetizer trays. Our garden adventure was a delightful surprise!
Carrot Top Photo by Starla Willis