This time of year farmers markets are bursting with greens. Lettuce, spinach, chard, fresh herbs. But many of the vegetables in season also come with their own greens– beets, tiny white hakurei turnips, and carrots… bonus greens! I work at a local market on Sundays where many customers ask us to discard the carrot tops. When this happens, in my mind I’m shrieking, “What! You don’t want the bonus greens?!” But, wily forager that I am, I try not to let my excitement show, because after they walk away I take their discarded tops and stash them in a shopping bag, and bring them home to cook them for myself.
As you’ve probably gathered, I am a greens fiend, but I had never cooked with carrot greens. Feathery and tougher than most, I wasn’t sure how best to prepare them, so I started with a standard method: quick blanch and saute, finished with some lemon and olive oil. The lemon and olive oil turn into a warm vinaigrette that I was eating with a spoon as it pooled on my plate. I’ve been serving these along side an egg and cheese sandwich for lunch, but they would also be nice mixed with chickpeas and rice, or alongside a roasted chicken.
A word to the wise, carrot greens carry a lot of sand and dirt, so unless you like gritty bites (the dental equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard), wash them really well. I generally trim my greens as little as possible, in part because I can’t bear to throw food away, but also because I like the texture differences between the leaves and stems. But with carrot greens, the stems are tough and fibrous 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.