Edible Veggie Tops

Veggie TopsIt 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

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 15 minutes of active cooking plus 1 hour to roast beets


Beet Olives Ingredients

  • 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.

Cooked Greens

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.

Beets and Olives

Turnips & Greens with Toasted Nori Salt

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 20 minutes


Turnips Ingredients

  • 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.

Toasting Nori

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.

Sauteeing Turnips

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

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 20 minutes


Radish Ingredients

  • 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.

Radishes Cooking

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.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 10 minutes


Carrot Pesto Ingredients

  • 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.

Carrot Pesto Nuts

Add the carrot tops and oil then pulse just until the ingredients are combined.

Carrot Pesto

About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

62 thoughts on “Edible Veggie Tops”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Dammit, and I just threw away the tops to a whole bunch of carrots! I wondered if they were edible, but I’d never heard of anyone eating them before, so I chucked ’em. I won’t be fooled again!

    1. I was always under the impression that carrot tops were poisonous.

      1. My mother told me the same thing! Damn, that pesto looks so good too. I know what I’m making next time I pick up carrots.

    2. Not everyone can eat carrot tops, they do have something in them that some people are sensitive too. I tried them this summer scrambled with eggs and it gave me an upset tummy. Self experiment, everyone.

  2. Whenever I go to my local food co-op, they always try to cut off the tops my beets and carrots. You will usually see me lunge protectively over the counter to grab them back before any damage is done! When I get home, the tops all get thrown into a crockpot with other vegetables and some soup bones for some super ah-mazing and nutrient rich broth. Yum!

    1. Awesome idea, and easy! Do you freeze your broth?

      Also, LOVE carrot top pesto, so fresh tasting!

  3. I love just cutting radishes in half, toss in olive oil/salt and roasting them at 400 until they are browned and soft. The bite really disappears, but the radish taste remains. Toss with chopped radish greens (tops) and some browned butter/lemon juice. YUM

  4. The best greens are the ones you grow in your garden. I particularly like to steam baby golden beets with their greens. Seasoned with butter and a little salt, they are delish. Generally you plant beet seeds close together and then thin them when they are a few inches high. The ones you pull out can be used in salads.

    1. …and for you folks growing your own, I left a couple of beets in the ground after thinning and picking the rest of that crop. I harvest a few leaves at a time for additions to dishes, such as omelets, where you aren’t making a complete side dish of the greens. These beets are now the size of a junior league football and have the capacity to regenerate greens very quickly. So I’m never out of beet greens! Cold hardy in central Texas too.

  5. When I make greens I usually sauté onions in the pan before adding and wilting the greens. Don’t throw away the stems, cut them the same size as your onions and cook them together before adding the leaves. The beautiful red, yellow, and green stems are way too healthy to discard. Also, from the time I can remember, my mom always added a couple of sliced hard boiled eggs to spinach and other greens we ate. Never understood it but I liked it.

    1. I also chop up the steps and cook with onions (: And I love the hard boiled egg idea! I’ll have to try that sometime!

  6. Oh, now you are talking my language! This is the sort of thing I could happily live on in Winter. Yes, I used to be a vegetarian, & I was born in the South so maybe I have greens in my blood. But for some reason I have never tried carrot greens, & now I’m excited to taste them!!

  7. Here’s a tasty tabouleh-style salad made from carrot tops.
    3 carrots with their leaves
    4 fresh mint leaves
    1 handful of raisins
    1 dash olive oil
    1 dash lemon juice
    1 pinch salt
    Chop the carrot roots in a food processor until they have a couscous texture. Add carrot leaves (remove the hard stems if there are any), raisins, and mint leaves. Pulse a few times just to chop the leaves. Season to taste with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
    Sometimes I make this with all the tops from a bunch of carrots and just one carrot root if I’m using the carrots for something else.

    And here’s my favorite way to make greens: wash and spin leaves dry, remove thick center stems, chop a few times so the leaves aren’t so big. Toss leaves in a large hot skillet coated with a tablespoon of Olive Oil. Cover and cook on medium until they are wilted, add 1 Tbs maple syrup and a few shakes of ground ginger. Season with salt and pepper.

  8. I’ll eat pretty much all of the greens except for the carrot tops. There’s some controversy over whether or not they’re toxic (high levels of certain alkaloids), and honestly, they don’t taste very good.

    Carrots – use caution
    All the others – devour on sight. I use them to make Saag (Indian mixed greens) or just sautee them with garlic. Never throw out root veggie tops.

    NOTE – Ever wonder why you NEVER see parsnip tops? It’s because they’re actually dangerous. Get some parsnip sap (from the stalks or leaves) on your skin, add light and it’s blister city.

    1. I’m also confused about whether carrot tops are okay. I spent an entire afternoon perusing the web for the answer, but never came up with anything conclusive! Mark, any input?

  9. My favorite way is to just cut off the tops and tear ’em up to put in my Big Ass Salads.

    1. There are a lot of varieties of sunflowers – are all their roots safe to eat? I know Jerusalem Artichoke is a sunflower, but what about the others?

  10. Apparently some members of the Apiaceae (umbellifers)family are very toxic, but carrots and celery are fine, if somewhat bitter.

    Research before you eat tops, roots, leaves, etc.

  11. Sweet potato greens. They’re very mild and can even be used in salads (uncooked).

  12. I usually cook the beet greens with my borscht. Just cut up the stalks and leaves and throw them in the soup!
    I got a bunch of radishes from my local market last summer and the greens were AMAZING: so fresh and lush. I hated wasting them, so I put them into my kimchi – they were delicious this way!!

    1. I think it’s available in most supermarkets. It should be in the aisle for Asian food. It’s the stuff used to wrap up sushi rolls. And yes I believe it’s some type of dried seaweed.

      1. Powdered seaweed/nori mixed with seasonings and used as a sprinkle is known as furikake. Look in the ethnic/Asian/Oriental section of your supermarkets and see if they carry it. There are many kinds/flavors and it is delish.

        1. The only issue is almost all commercially available furikake has MSG and/or sugar, plus dehydrated soy sauce. Making your own is super simple, and there are tons of varieties. I like a mix with black and white sesame seeds, nori, dried shrimps and a little red pepper.

    2. In the Seattle are, Costco now sells Nori sheets. Along with tubs of coconut oil and grass-fed butter!

  13. Ahh I LOVE this post!! Whenever I go to the farmer’s market and buy beets or carrots or turnips, the farmers give me all the greens that their other customers didn’t want (: Free nutrients!

    My favorite way to make veggie tops is also super simple: put some bone broth in a pot, bring to a simmer and add the greens. Leave the lid off so the bone broth reduces, cooking the greens and turning into a sauce. When it’s reduced however far you like it, add a big pat of butter (or other preferred fat source), a splash of balsamic vinegar, and chow down!

  14. I’ve never tried the carrot greens, mainly because I feed them to my rabbits. Major treat for them, right from the garden.

  15. This post and the comments so far have given me so many new ideas! I love it when I have new vegetable recipes to try. And now I know what to do with the tops! Thanks!

  16. What a great post! 5 minutes ago I was in my usual morning fog, coffee and flicking through my Google reader, now I am ready for the farmers market with my list. So much flavour, so few ingredients, thanks for the important reminder 🙂

  17. My chickens get my greens. They go nuts for carrot and turnip tops. But they turn up their little beaks at radish greens, so I’m trying this next season!

    PS they also won’t eat cilantro!

    1. I’ll have to tell my mom that chickens share her hatred for cilantro. I think her respect for the entire species will increase dramatically.

  18. Interesting, I’ve always disposed of the tops of these veggies, never thought of consuming them.

  19. We add nutritious beet greens to sauteed chard & kale in balsamic & olive oil or bacon fat…soo good

    Great post!

  20. I work at a southern CA roadside produce stand and we also participate in about 15 farmer’s markets every week, and I’m always amazed at how many people don’t know that you can eat most of the greens. My favorite ways are to toss them into soup, or just sautee in your favorite fat (ghee is fabulous). Try tossing a big handful of walnuts into the oil, and brown them just a little before you add the greens ….

  21. Too many root vegetables have more carbs in them than I can handle, so my neighbor and I have a swap session: whatever root vegetables we each buy (or grow, in his case), he gets the vegetable, and I get the greens from it.

    My salads barely need any lettuces at all because there’s so many other greens in them!

    Then there’s foraging–around here, I have access to dandelion greens, wild green onions, chickweed, and a few other “weeds”, and my salads have never looked less conventional.

  22. I eat turnip greens all the time. Turnips themselves never.

  23. Just bought beets and was going to give the greens to the wildlife. So glad you sent out that recipe. Made it today and it was great. I’ve been making a radish salad with the radish greens, don’t know why I didn’t assume I could do the same with beets. Thanks MDA!

  24. I found out that the leaves on strawberries are healthy as well! It’s so much easier to chuck the whole strawberry in my mouth now. 🙂 I get weird looks once in a while but it’s fun to share the knowledge!

  25. You learn something new everyday! I regularly eat beet and turnip greens but have been throwing away the carrot and radish leaves. I get them from my local CSA so they’re always attached. Aaaccck! Didn’t know you could eat them too. It always struck me as wasteful. No longer, can’t wait to try these recipes!

    Excellent post!

  26. This is an awesome post. As a newbie to this PB living (and currently waiting for my 21 day challenge to arrive!) I am learning so much from this! Isn’t it amazing how the obvious is in front of us (eating the greens etc) and it’s not until you start reading these posts that you realise “huh, of course – why didn’t I think of that?”! Certainly one of those light-bulb moments for me. Sorry rabbits and chickens, looks like you’re going to have to share your greens now!

    1. And don’t forget things like nasturtiums too (very easy to grow) and very tasty and you can eat flower and leaf!

  27. OMGGG this was amazing!!! I shared it on my facebook page, LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!!!

    Have you ever done anything with dandelion greens? Or any other wildcrafted indigenous herbs?


    1. Dandelion greens are great. Years ago my grandfather knew park rangers at a nearby state park, and they would always call him to come pick dandelion greens before they would spray. So we always had them for an Easter salad, and usually a week or two before and after.


  28. I second the sweet potato greens. They are amazingly good after boiling and then sauteing with butter or bacon.

  29. Just tried the radish recipe and added a little cooked chicken and garlic for an amazingly delicious meal.

  30. Just did the beet greens recipe and they were wonderful. My greens shrank though…a lot. They didn’t look near as pretty as yours did.

  31. I love stinging nettles soup. It had a unique flavor. Cooking them dissolves all the nettles.

  32. Seemed not to be mentioned, but toss the stems into bone broth. All stems for that matter. If you aren’t making bone broth right away, just freeze the stems for when you do.