Spring and summer brings fresh greens, more than just lettuce and chicories…
At the market you’ll usually find new season root crops with tops attached. And most of those tops are edible… yet only in season can you get them so fresh from the farm. It’s time to discover their beauty and utility.
The Utility of Green Onions
These are at their very best in season, spring and summer in this area. You’ll want to keep these guys cool, wrapped in a plastic bag or in your crisper in the fridge. They like it just above 0 Celsius. Stored like this they hold freshness a week to 10 days.
Green onions with larger bulbs go great on the barbecue, but don’t forget about the tops! Slice them thin and use them in place of chives at half volume… toss them in salads, add to omelettes and stir fries.
You can also use the white parts like regular dry onions.
They’re a bit milder in flavour. Chop them up to drizzle over hot dog on a bun or slice thin for topping burgers.
The Beauty of Beet Greens
These amazing tops come in a variety of colours – purple, red, pink, light green and even green streaked with white. Cut them into short pieces to add a little extra colour to stir fries and casseroles.
You can even use the more tender tops of young baby beets to add interest and nutritional content to salads.
As for nutritional value, the tops are actually more nutrient rich than the bulbous roots. They’re a very good source of iron with just 1 cup providing 15% of the recommended daily allowance. While rich in magnesium they also contain numerous phytonutrients that give them their wonderful colours, unique flavour and as well support good health and immunity.
When shopping for beets with greens, look for good colour, rather than pale limp leaves. Opt for plants that have not been sprayed with pesticides, to avoid possible contamination. Older beets often have larger root bulbs, but not always. Check for rougher skin around the top and remains of stems that have died off, at the base of the greens. The older plants will have tougher stems, but leaves and roots are just as useful.
Once you get the beets home, remove the tops from the roots so your roots stay firm longer. Put the unwashed greens in a separate plastic bag and gently press the air out of it before placing it in your refrigerator.
When your ready to use the greens be sure to wash and pat them dry before you begin.
Here are a few ideas to get started using those greens.
Simple Ways to Prepare Beet Tops
- Chop them up, even the stems in inch long pieces, and sautee them with onions and bacon
- Add them to soup or stew
- Cut the leaves into smaller pieces, sautee lightly and then add them to omelettes
- Beet Greens With Bacon
Want More Ideas for Using Beet Greens? Consider this…
Beets and Swiss Chard are from the same family of plants and have similar flavour. If you’ve got a recipe for Swiss Chard, and a bunch of beets on hand, simply substitute the beet greens into the recipe, leaving out any tougher parts of the stems. (Baby beets generally have more tender stems.)
Or if you really like beet greens but not the beet roots themselves, you can skip the beet bunches and just pick up some Swiss Chard… so you won’t feel the need to toss out the parts you don’t like.
What can you do with carrot tops?
Lots, apparently… yet, don’t feel bad, if you never thought of it, neither did I until one of our customers at market asked to buy all of the carrot tops we had stashed into a bin when other customers had asked us to remove them. This person had a use for them…
“What do you do with them?” I asked.
“Oh, I make pesto… and sometimes just add them to soup” came the reply. I’d never thought of that, but since then, we’ve started using those tops too.
Carrots are closely related to parsley, cilantro, fennel and parsnips. The lacy leaves make a lovely garnish to dress up a platter of cheese and crackers or add a special touch to salads.
These tops are very high in vitamin A and potassium, nutrients that support good vision and circulation. In fact, it’s the high level of potassium that gives them a bitter flavour that tends to grow with the age of the plant. It makes young baby carrots the best choice for carrot tops.
Beware, however, carrot tops also contain some unique compounds called porphyrines. These porphyrines activate the pituitary gland to release hormones that stimulate the uterus, so they are best avoided by pregnant women.
Some people are sensitive to alkaloids and nitrates in carrot tops, so they don’t quite agree with everyone. For most of us though, a little is a good thing… just avoid eating them by the bushel.
To avoid the tough stems simply strip the leaves off with your fingers. Then toss the frilly leaves into soups or salads. The tougher stems can be chopped with a food processor or sharp knife and used in making vegetable broth for soup.
For a little extra nutritional boost, try adding a few leaves to your next bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Now don’t forget pesto! Carrot tops make a decent pesto. Make some up. If you don’t use it all right away, you can freeze it for later. Mix it up with pasta, serve it as a dip for crackers or bread, or toss it with cooked white dried beans.