This time of year, the farmers markets are bursting with greens. Lettuce, spinach, chard, fresh herbs. But many of the vegetables in season also come with greens of their own, beets, tiny white hakurei turnips, and carrots… bonus greens! I work at a local market on Sundays, and one or two customers each week ask us to cut off the green tops from their beets or carrots. When this happens, in my mind and to myself, I’m shrieking, “What! You don’t want the bonus greens?! You are nuts.” But, wily forager that I am, I also try not to let my excitement show, because after they walk away, I will take their discarded green tops and stash them in a shopping bag, and then bring them home and cook them for myself.
As you have probably picked up by now, I am a greens fiend, but I had never cooked with carrot greens. Feathery and a little tougher than their beet and turnip green friends, I wasn’t sure what preparation they would lend themselves to, so I decided to start with a standard: a quick blanch and saute in the same pan, finished with some lemon and olive oil. The lemon and olive oil turn into a warm vinaigrette in the saute pan, a sort of pot liquor (potlikker) in the southern parlance that I was eating with a spoon as it pooled on my plate when I served the finished dish. I’ve been serving these along side an egg and cheese sandwich for a quick lunch, but a larger batch would also be nice mixed with some chickpeas and rice (maybe add a little cumin for that), or along side a roasted chicken.
A word to the wise, carrot greens hold on to a lot of sand and dirt, so unless you like gritty bites (the dental equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard), wash your carrot greens really really well. I also tend to trim my greens as little as possible in general, in part because I can’t bear to throw food away, but also because I like the texture differences between the leaves and the stems in the finished dish. But in the case of carrot greens, the stems are pretty tough and toothsome even when cooked, so I recommend trimming them right up to where the leaves start.
Sauteed Carrot Greens
1 bunch of green tops from a bunch of carrots, rinsed thoroughly, trimmed, and roughly chopped
1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Barely cover the bottom of a medium saute pan with water and set it over medium high heat. Add the chopped carrot greens and let them blanch and steam for a few minutes, turning a few times with tongs, until the greens turn bright green and start to reduce in volume. Add the olive oil, a healthy pinch of salt, and a few turns of black pepper. Let the greens saute in the oil for a minute or so, and then add the lemon juice. Cook for about 30 seconds longer, until the lemon juice is bubbling in the pan, but you don’t want the lemon juice to evaporate away. Serve warm or at room temperature, being sure to spoon the ‘pot liquor’ on top of the greens.