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Carrot tops can indeed be eaten, adding a tart bite to dishes

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Carrot tops

Carrot Top Pesto, Mozzarella Pearls & Tomatoes with Carrot Top Vinaigrette and Carrot Top Potato Soup are just some of the many ways you can use the leafy greens that are often just tossed out.

I’m usually willing to try new things in the kitchen, but when my friend George Snider stopped me and asked if you could eat carrot tops, I had to admit that I’d never tried them.

George challenged me to find out, so my digging began. I’ve looked through a variety of vintage cookbooks, searched the Internet and the food timelines that are online, and I have learned that you can, indeed, eat carrot tops.

I wasn’t sure why anybody would want to eat carrot tops, but then I tried them and got my answer. If you like arugula, cilantro, dill or the tart bite of mustard greens, you’ll like carrot tops.

I also learned that many cultures traditionally use carrot tops. They are commonly used in pesto combinations served over pasta and in tabouleh salads mixed with mint and parsley. The most unique recipe I found was a vegetarian French Gumbo that used all kinds of greens, including an entire bunch of carrot tops.

I’ve developed a few new recipes using carrot tops and I’m growing carrots in one of my big flower boxes this year, not for the carrots, but for the tops.

During the reign of England’s King James I, carrot tops were a part of high fashion. Ladies used fruits, flowers and feathers to decorate their hats and clothes. The green leafy fronds of the carrot top, as well as the lacy flower of the wild carrot, were used to adorn hats.

We know the wild carrot as Queen Anne’s lace. American legend reveals England’s King James’ queen consort, Anne of Denmark, was an expert lace maker and that’s why the wild carrot’s flower is named after her. The folklore says Queen Anne pricked her finger with a needle and a drop of her blood fell on one of her pretty lace creations, and that is why there is a purple spot in the middle of the wild flower.

Through the ages, carrot tops have been used for many other things. The greens have antiseptic values, so they were mixed with mouthwashes. They serve as a diuretic, so they were steeped into a strong tea. From early Greek times, they have been used medicinally in poultices.

There are several tips about eating carrot greens. Don’t eat wild carrot greens. If you grow your own carrots, you know what has been sprinkled or sprayed on the greens. However, wash thoroughly any greens from market-purchased carrots, too. Use the most tender parts of the fronds, discarding any thick stems.

Try one of my recipes. You’ll be surprised by the flavor. Your carrot tops will be good because you will have made it at home.

DEBBIE MOORE is executive director of Carbondale Convention & Tourism Bureau. She’s also a foodie, columnist and cookbook author. Contact her at dlmsliceofpie@gmail.com.

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