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  • Writer's pictureChef Kelly Unger

Carrots with their tops are a summer crop, no kidding!

Part of the botanical family commonly called umbels or umbellifers, carrots and their relatives are aromatics and characterized by their taproots and long hollow stemmed flat topped flower clusters. Others in this fun family include fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, dill, parsnips, celery, chervil, lovage and parsley, among many others.

While carrots don’t necessarily feel like a summer crop, they are an essential part of a summer vegetable platter! And we do get the benefit of the green carrot tops now, and they make a wonderful pesto! I make mine in a food processor with one bunch of carrot tops, a handful of walnuts, a handful of basil leaves if I have them, about 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan, 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to make it saucy.

Carrot tops are a great herb in and of themselves. The stems have just as much flavor as the leaves so don’t discard them. Chop them as well.

In our early American history, carrot tops were used for animal feed and the carrot itself was harvested and stored for winter to be used in soups and stews or simply boiled and topped with butter. Interestingly, carrots were not regarded well and their nutrition for people not understood. It was regarded as a good crop for farmers raising meat animals because the carrots don’t deplete the soil like grain crops and they are more nutritious. In the 1850’s hotel chefs in Belgium and France were making carrots all the rage. After the Civil War, the carrot was planted by nearly every farmer and began to work its way into our hearts.

Today, of course, the health value of the carrot is understood and appreciated. Carrots are not just for soups and stews. Chefs are doing everything from marinating them in pastrami seasoning to replacing hot dogs and other meats, to using the entire carrot from root to leaf in one dish. While carrots are nutritious both raw and cooked, they do provide more antioxidants when they are steamed or boiled than eaten raw. And DO NOT PEEL your carrots, it's a waste of time and nutrients, just rinse dirt off with water and use a scrub sponge if necessary. Store carrot tops in a vase like cut flowers if using right away. Otherwise, leave on carrot and store protected in the fridge.

This week I'm sharing 22 Carrot Recipes from Food & Wine . This collection celebrates the humble carrot from raw to cooked, savory to sweet, with many different cuisine flavor profiles, and even a cocktail. There are so many delicious ways to incorporate this yummy vegetable into your life.

I hope you'll try a new one. Let them eat cake! Enjoy!

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