Leaf-to-Root Eating: Carrot Top Salsa Verde

Snout-to-tail eating has been the rage, but let me tell you about my recent experimentation with another eating concept I hereby deem Leaf-to-Root Eating.

My wheels first started spinning on this idea after reading Lindsay over at rosemarried a couple of weeks ago. She made a radish leaf pesto pasta salad that sounded pretty good, but made me realize that I didn't really know what radish leaf tasted like at all. Or a carrot or beet top for that matter. In 50 years, I wondered, how many carrot, radish, beet and turnip tops had I let go uneaten?

Lindsay's post completely transformed my Saturday farmer's market experience. Instead of seeing the leafy aspect of all the veggies as merely a freshness indicator or handy carrying device, I saw it as potential addition foodstuff.

Not only did the shiny vermilion radishes, snowy white baby turnips, topaz and ruby-hued beets and carrots no bigger around than a sharpie catch my eye, but I really noticed their fronds. The carrot tops were feathery and light, the beet greens crisp as lettuce, and the radish leaves had a nap much like a cat's tongue. The green stuff was just as inspirational as the rest of the plant.

At home, I felt a little like Alice Waters. I was surrounded by heaps of beautiful fresh food purchased directly from the eager curly-headed young men and sunburn-faced young women who had just that morning picked it from the fields where they had spent previous months non-chemically tilling, composting, planting, watering and weeding. I was actually a little ashamed of myself that it took me so long to realize the utility and joy of the above-ground parts of these plants.

Ms. Waters' book The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, has a nice recipe for Salsa Verde, which she considers one of four essential sauces and recommends served with grilled fish, meats and vegetables. Her recipe (printed with her permission here in the NYT) is one I've used before. She uses a myriad of finely chopped garden fresh herbs, lemon zest, garlic, capers, salt, pepper and olive oil in this bright, lush condiment. (Do try her version including salt-packed anchovies. It is stellar.) Think chimichurri, and you're getting the idea.

My version used all of one bunch of carrot tops, about a half-bunch of radish tops and several sprigs of basil, parsley and mint from our garden. Instead of lemon zest, I used orange zest. Garlic, good olive oil, and salt and pepper. And while Ms. Waters prefers to use nothing but a sharp knife, I shamelessly resort to my good ol' favorite Cuisinart.

Veggie-top Salsa Verde Even Makes Murray the Amazing Wonderdog Smile

The finished sauce was amazing. Carrot tops, I learned, taste a little carroty and a lot herby. Radish leaves have the spicy aspect of radish roots, but also an obvious green flavor component. It's like the world of herbs just opened up a whole new branch to me.

We used the sauce with a heavenly grilled fish and roasted vegetables, and of course a wonderful Oregon wine which reflected the green notes of the sauce. Next post, I'll go into those details. In a feat of versatility, the next morning a couple of tablespoonsful of the salsa verde was whisked into cracked eggs for a summer vegetable frittata with feta cheese; and the day after that My Baby stirred some into the pulp of a grilled eggplant for a delicious version of baba ghanoush.

Leaf-to-Root Eating, like its Whole Beast counterpart snout-to-tail, is ecologically sound, economically sensible, healthful and practical. After all, even the biggest compost pile can only handle so much nitrogen-based leafy matter. But most importantly, leaf-to-root eating is delicious.


  1. This is one of my favorite posts. I buy tons of root vegetables with their leaves and usually just throw the leaves in soup or salad without making an optimal use of them. Your post is so inspiring that I'm going to make your pesto right away. Thanks for sharing this great idea.

  2. Wonderful! I have heard a lot of the snout to tail movement and you took it in an entirely different direction. Your pictures are incredible!

  3. This was a beautiful post, Pam. I loved that huge stack of orange carrots. I've recently become curious of such leaves too. But not enough to try it yet. You have lit a carrot leaf fire under me!

    I once saw Iron Chef Michael Simon do a radish leaf salad on top of his crispy fried lamb. I believe he put feta and lemon and olive oil. Super simple, but it looked so good. I checked out the radish leaves after seeing that and they were kinda fuzzy and pokey so I didn't try it. Carrot tops sound more my cup o tea.

  4. I am so intrigued by this! Lindsay is a pal and I loved her radish leaf pesto too! I use all the greens of things like turnips and beets but frankly we feed our carrost tops to the ducks at our CSA Farm when we pick up weekly. I've never heard of using them. Will try this, thank you!

  5. We've started using the greens when we get them as well. It is really is pretty amazing how we had largely lost that angle on farm fresh food!

    The pics in the post are beautiful, making me think of the markets that are just getting a head of steam in NH.


  6. I know I said something briefly on twitter, but I'm so happy you made this discovery! It is so crazy (and life changing) when you start looking at greens like this in a different way. Carrot tops, beet greens, radish leaves...I can't believe I ignored them for so long! Glad I could inspire. Frankly, I'm flattered. you know how much I love your blog! :)

  7. How cool is Murray! :-) I must say, leaf-to-root eating sounds a whole lot more appetising than snout-to-tail eating (insert gagging noise at the thought of that here).


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