It can be easy to forget that the green tops of many vegetables are not only edible, but truly delicious. Beets, carrots, radishes and turnips often show up in supermarkets with no greens attached at all, and that’s a shame. When cooked and served with their greens, these veggies become side dishes with an amazing array of earthy, sweet, pleasantly bitter and peppery flavors.
Beet greens are probably the most familiar within this bunch. Turnip greens are a little more delicate but have a similar flavor. Radish greens are milder than the radish itself but still a bit peppery. Carrot tops are slightly pungent and herbal. All of these greens can be cooked in a variety of ways: sautéed or stir-fried with oil or animal fat (bacon is always delicious with greens), thrown into soups, chopped up raw and served in salads or thrown into smoothies.
The easy recipes below are eye-opening examples of how delicious veggie greens really are. After a few bites you’ll never have the urge to chop off the tops and throw them out again. You’ll also feel cheated when you can’t find the vegetables with their greens attached at the grocery store.
Next time you’re at the farmers market (where all vegetables keep their green tops) talk to vendors about their favorite edible veggie tops and how they like to prepare them. A whole new world of dark leafy greens will open up.
Recipe Tip: The stems of greens are optional eating; they’re often too chewy and tough to be enjoyable. Either pull the leaves from the stems or just cut off the bottom portion of the stem where no leaves are attached. Try to buy organic and make sure to wash all vegetable greens really well. It usually takes a few rinses in cold water to remove all the dirt and grit.
Beets & Greens with Black Olives
Time in the Kitchen: 15 minutes of active cooking plus 1 hour to roast beets
- 2 bunches of beets with greens
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or orange juice (15 ml)
- 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives or other pitted black olive (175 ml)
Preheat oven to 400 ºF (204 ºC).
Separate the beets from the greens.
Put the beets and 1/2 cup (125 ml) of water in a baking dish covered with a lid or tight foil. Roast in the oven until you can easily pierce the beets with a fork. The exact time will depend on the size of the beets but is likely to be between 30 to 60 minutes.
When the beets come out of the oven, set aside to cool. Once cool, rub off the skins. Slice the beets into small cubes.
Heat a large pot of water. When it comes to a boil add the beet greens and cook for just two minutes. Drain.
Let the leaves cool then use your hands to gently squeeze out excess moisture. Coarsely chop the greens.
In a food processor or blender, combine the olive oil, citrus juice and olives. Process until the olives are finely chopped.
In a large bowl gently toss the greens and beets with the olive puree.
Turnips & Greens with Toasted Nori Salt
Time in the Kitchen: 20 minutes
- 1 sheet of nori
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (1 ml)
- 2 to 4 bunches of turnips with greens (eight to twelve turnips)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil or sesame oil, or one tablespoon of each (30 ml)
To toast the nori, hold the nori sheet with tongs and wave it over a small open flame (such as a gas stove set on low). Don’t get the nori too close to the flame or hold it over the flame too long; it will quickly burn or possibly catch on fire. The idea is to just toast the nori so it becomes crispy. This will happen with just a few passes over the flame.
Crumble the toasted nori sheet into a coffee maker. Blend until it becomes a fine powder. Dump the nori powder into a bowl and mix it with the sea salt.
Separate the greens from the turnips. Trim off the ends of the turnips and slice the turnips very thinly. Whether or not you peel the turnips depends on how thick or marked up the skin is.
Slice the washed turnip leaves into thin strips and set aside.
Heat the oil in a wide skillet. When the oil is hot, add the turnips and saute 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned.
Add the greens and sauté a few minutes more, just until the leaves are wilted.
Transfer the turnips and greens to a serving bowl and lightly sprinkle some of the nori salt on top. Keep leftover nori salt in a sealed container for future use.
Sautéed Radishes and Greens
Time in the Kitchen: 20 minutes
- 2 bunches of radishes with greens
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (30 ml)
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (60 ml)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Remove the greens from the radishes. Coarsely chop the washed greens and set aside.
Slice the radishes into thin rounds.
Heat the coconut oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, add the radishes and cook for 3 minutes without stirring. To brown properly, the radishes should be spread out in a single layer.
Stir the radishes and saute another 3 minutes.
Add the leaves and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.
Carrot Top & Brazil Nut Pesto
This recipe was inspired by a carrot top pesto recipe in the cookbook Roots by Diane Morgan.
Time in the Kitchen: 10 minutes
- 4 to 6 Brazil nuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (0.5 ml)
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (30 ml)
- 1 1/2 cups loosely packed carrot top leaves (375 ml)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (75 ml)
In a food processor combine the nuts, garlic, salt and cheese until very finely chopped.
Add the carrot tops and oil then pulse just until the ingredients are combined.