One of my favourite meals growing up was pesto pasta, which I’m sure my Mum was thankful for. All she had to do to make a dinner my siblings and I would love, was cook some spaghetti and stir through a jar of Barilla Pesto alla Genovese. Sometimes if we were lucky, she’d toast some pine nuts, or poach some chicken to go along with it. She’d also cook extra so we could take a container-full to school with us for lunch which was way more exciting than a sandwich, and I was always envied by my friends on those days.
You won’t find me eating Barilla pesto these days, partly because it’s full of cheese and preservatives, but mostly because it’s SO easy to make your own! Fragrant herbs, punchy garlic, a handful of nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and olive oil and that’s it. Sometimes it’s handy to have a convenient meal, but food companies seem to take the convenience too far… Has anyone ever seen those pre-scrambled eggs?! I’d rather use a day where I have some free time to make up batches of my own pesto, sauerkraut, relishes and the like; that way on busy days I don’t have to reach for jars.
I know the typical pesto herb of choice is basil, but my Brother introduced me to the idea of using carrot tops from the bunches of dutch carrots. Carrot tops/ leaves have got this incredible acidity and tartness that you won’t find with basil– you have got to try it. My absolute favourite part about using carrot tops is that you’re making a meal out of something that would otherwise go to waste. I’m the kind of person who overhears someone at the Farmer’s Markets asking to remove the leaves from the beetroot they’re buying, and asks if I can have them… Why waste them if you can make something out of them (beetroot leaves make a delicious soup!).
Carrot tops are unlike carrots, not just in color, but also in the vitamins and minerals they contain. Carrot tops are filled with Potassium; the mineral responsible for controlling the body’s sodium stores by sending a message to the kidneys to excrete excess sodium through the urine. Vitamin K, which is necessary for allowing blood clotting and bone formation, is abundant in carrot tops also.
Like all greens, carrot tops are rich in chlorophyll, which is a blood-purifying tonic (I like to add some extra greens to my pesto as well– I’m always trying to get the maximum nutrition out of my meals). Chlorophyll actually has a scarily-similar molecular structure to Hemoglobin; the protein in charge of creating and transporting red blood cells around the body. Chlorophyll and Hemoglobin are identical, except for their respective centre atoms; Chlorophyll has Magnesium, Hemoglobin has iron. Consuming Chlorophyll through the diet will actually help the body build and transport red blood cells, just as Hemoglobin does, giving us access to more energy, vitality and life circling through our blood vessels!
Chlorophyll also has the power to bind to and remove toxic and acidic metals in the body, mostly due to its alkaline nature. It also helps to combat bad breath by acting as a deodorant for the mouth, and by acting on the digestive system– the space bad breath breeds in to begin with.
You can choose to make this pesto in either a food processor or mortar and pestle. A food processor gives you a more even consistency, but I kind of like the rustic chunky-ness the mortar and pestle achieves. I’ve successfully made this recipe in a blender too, but found that I have to add some water also to help it blend. To get the true pesto flavor without adding water, use a food processor or mortar and pestle.
Please note: One scary thing I found out when learning about carrot top uses, was that pesticides sprayed on carrot tops while the carrot is growing in the ground, don’t actually affect the carrot– the very thing being grown to sell. Carrot tops from conventional (not organic) carrot bunches, are likely to have the residues remaining from harmful toxins and pesticides. I highly recommend buying certified organic carrots/carrot tops when making this pesto, or eating carrot tops in any other way.
- 1 bunch carrot tops (leaves only), roughly chopped
- 5 stems of tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley
- 1/4 cup/handful nuts of choice (I like Brazil Nuts best in this recipe), roughly chopped
- 1 lemon– zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp pink himalayan sea salt
- pepper to taste
- If using a food processor, simply process everything together until combined.
- If using a mortar and pestle, begin with the salt, then add everything else, except for the olive oil– the salt adds grit to help break down the ingredients. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as needed, until everything is well combined and the greens have broken down well.