Eating your veg tops

Radishes, Carrots, Turnips and Beetroots. Classic garden roots. But did you know that you can also eat their tops?  There is a resurgence of this practice, following the “Waste-Not” trend, and you can find specific recipes on the internet to inspire you. Here’s a carrot soup to try that uses the tops.

Carrots are one of those veg that normally need thinning out when you grow them. You can now use all those thinnings, tops and all, to good effect.

If you don’t grow your own carrots, keep your eyes open at the farmers’ market for carrots with tops intact.

Here’s an idea I’ve been trying to maximise my radish crop. I found a stacking pot system (but this is not necessary) and planted some radish seeds. Once one is big enough to harvest, I take it out and immediately replace it with a new seed. This will ensure that my successional growing speed is operating at the same pace that I am harvesting them. That’s the plan! It will also work with a simple row. Go by picking the largest as you need them rather than strict row order, and pop a single seed in each time to replace it. This is the same process that forests regenerate themselves, by exposing the canopy to light whereby new seeds can then germinate. Radishes have large seeds for easy handling, and seem to have a reliable germination rate when planted singly.

The tops make up a significant part of the final plant as you can see. They are not as tasty as the root, but are just as nutritious, and are perfect added with other salad leaves for some contrast, or added to anything else you are cooking where a leaf might go, such as a stir fry.

The same applies to beetroot leaves. These can be plucked as the plant grows, but don’t go too mad – just take a few leaves from a few plants. Their red ribs can liven up a green salad. If your row needs thinning out, then you have an instant harvest of young leaves to use there and then, as with the carrots, including the tiny unformed beetroot. It all counts as food!

All these extra leaves have a variety of minerals, vitamins and fibre, and help your food go further. As we have shown before, you can often make up a side salad from what you already have growing in the garden, saving the purchase of one of those ready to eat salad bags and all the processing, packaging, and transport that that entails.

Try putting some of this into practice during the next few weeks, which you can do even if you don’t have a garden. Waitrose and the farmers market stall sell carrots and some beetroots with tops intact, and you may know of a traditional gardener or allotment holder who is likely to be thinning out in the coming weeks!

That’s it for now, but keep posted, or sign up for notification to our new articles. Our next one will be an introduction to “Blue Zone” thinking – a cornerstone of our group philosophy.