Going Greens: Beet, Carrot, Radish and Dandelion
Beet greens, carrot tops, radish tops and dandelion greens offer up a wide range of culinary potential and nutrition, just waiting to be discovered by cooks and diners alike.
Plus, cooking from root tip to leafy top saves on food waste and money. My no-waste journey was inspired by a CSA box. Faced with a mass of leafy carrot tops and endless supply of dandelion greens, I decided to rise to the challenge. I was compelled to see how much of the box I could transform into a dish that wasn't just edible, but entirely delicious.
After arming myself with Internet inspiration from popular cooking blogs such as The Kitchn, I found out through trial and error what techniques unleash these greens' appealing flavors. I began with recipes that called for familiar leafy greens, like kale or Swiss chard, and found the beet greens and dandelion greens shared similar qualities and made excellent substitutes.
When sauteing the dandelion greens alone I found them too bitter, but was pleasantly surprised by the lovely earthy quality they imparted in egg dishes. The more distinct flavors of carrot tops and radish tops melded well with Parmesan cheese and roasted nuts for delicious pestos. With each experiment, I became a convert. They are all part of my greens repertoire and my culinary exploits.
So next time, don't throw away the greens after you use their familiar roots.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Look: The leaves have a wide silhouette with visual characteristics similar to smaller Swiss chard leaves, with red veins and stalks.
Taste: They have a "beety" flavor with some bitterness.
Use: Saute in olive oil with garlic and sea salt, or substitute in dishes calling for leafy greens.
Tip: Young, small leaves are less bitter, making them perfect to mix into green salads.
Look: Light green leaves with a shape similar to spinach with a few extra ruffles.
Taste: Radish tops have a peppery bite similar to the radish root.
Use: Green smoothies, soups, pesto, pasta or as a pizza topping.
Look: The scalloped edges of the dandelion greens are reminiscent of arugula.
Taste: They have an earthy, green scent and are bitter when eaten raw.
Use: I prefer the dandelion greens cooked and within egg dishes: scrambles, frittatas or savory pancakes.
Look: The feathery leaves are similar in shape to flat-leaf parsley.
Flavor: A fresh scent that translates to an earthy and somewhat bitter flavor in dishes. Think concentrated carrot flavor with a bitter afterthought.
Use: Pestos, and garnishes for soups or salads. I have even seen them used for garlicky chimichurri sauces.
Tip: Due to their mildly chewy texture, it's best to chop them when using the leaves as a garnish.