Zero Waste Recipe: Make Carrot Leaves Pesto

For the majority of us, slicing the greens from a bunch of carrots and throwing them away or composting them comes as almost natural. Until now, most of us haven't realised how delicious and nutritious carrot greens are in addition to being edible. 

Carrot greens have a flavour and aroma that are overwhelmingly carrot-like, together with the pleasant earthy bitterness that is typical of leafy greens and a feathery texture that resembles a herb. They are a good source of potassium, vitamin A, and plant chemicals that protect against disease. If you want to save them, take them out of the carrots and put them in a bag with other greens in the refrigerator. The carrots itself won't live as long if you leave the leaves on since the leaves will drain moisture and nutrients from the root (this is one reason they are frequently cut off at the grocery store). 

Carrot greens can be prepared in the same way as parsley or coriander are used: as a garnish, tossed in salads or salsas, or cooked with garlic, oil, and a little vinegar like kale or beet greens. Use the same basic components as a traditional basil pesto for this recipe, adding fresh basil leaves to lend a layer of sweet, flowery essence to counterbalance the earthy flavour of the carrot greens. The result is a delightful, lemony pesto made from an entire head of carrot tops. 

Use it the same way you would any other pesto: toss it with pasta, spread it on toast or sandwiches, or drizzle it over boiled potatoes, eggs, chicken breast, etc. It's a sauce that maximises the use of a fantastic ingredient that has always been nearby and was only waiting to be discovered rather than wasted. 


45g pine nuts  

2 small cloves garlic, peeled 

100 g lightly packed, well washed and dried carrot top greens (from 1 450g bunch of carrots) 

30 g lightly packed fresh basil leaves, plus more as needed 

45 g freshly grated parmesan cheese 

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice  

1 tbsp water 

½ tsp fine salt 

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper  

120ml extra-virgin olive oil 


Pine nuts should be toasted for about 3 minutes, stirring often in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, until fragrant and golden brown. Transfer to a plate and allow to gently cool. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until crushed. Process till finely minced after adding the carrot tops, basil, cheese, lemon juice, water, salt, and pepper. Oil should be added through the feed tube slowly and steadily while the machine is running to ensure proper blending. Transfer it to a bowl, and your pesto is ready.  

If the amount of greens produced by your bunch of carrots is less than 100g, add as much basil as is required to produce a total of 120g of greens.