NOTE – READ THE FOLLOWING BEFORE PROCEEDING: There are several comments below this post which support – and dispute – the safety of carrot tops. There are a few reports of people having very bad reaction to them – I don`t know if this was due to the individual, the carrots themselves and variables (such as organic or not). As the article states, many people make arguments on both sides and it`s essential that you do your own research (I provide resources on both sides of the argument in the following article) and make the decision for yourself to their safety. This article draws neither conclusion and it`s main point is to do research before consuming.
We recently wrote a post about using ‘left unders‘ – foodbits normally associated with compost rather than cuisine. In that post we shared our use for pea pods, garlic stocks, onion roots and carrot tops. Carrot tops.
We received a comment on the post yesterday mentioning that they may be toxic and asking for clarification. The truth is I hadn’t thought of any potential danger with the tops, know of several others who also use them in cooking and posted about it. But it was a good question and one that I had no way to answer other than simply state my experience and I’ve learned that the size and knowledge of our audience makes that generally a pretty bad idea (meant as a compliment to the amount of knowledge people have here).
I called upon my research assistant, Google…
I found out that carrots are in the parsley family and thus the tops closely resemble the herb – as well as looking like hemlock (which is toxic and deadly). My initial search revealed one vote per side in the battle of “eat me” vs “run for the hills.”
Further reading suggested that most farmers expect you NOT to eat them so non-organic carrot greens are likely heavily sprayed and should be avoided. Perhaps a decent tip but definitely inconclusive.
A report on the Risk of Carrots (who knew such reports existed?) from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) records the production phase of growing carrots as a Low-High risk of contamination based on “Many agricultural chemicals applied to carrot tops would not contaminate the edible root. Contamination may occur where errors are made in application, not following product label information, or where chemicals not registered for use are used. Health Canada regulates chemicals used in the production of food (46, and 64).” This collaborates the advice above but doesn’t outright their eating (though that was not the focus of the report so it’s also not an endorsement).
My first search was less than exciting; “ “Effects range from slightly elevated blood pressure, and slightly elevated alertness and heartbeat, all the way to death.” Surely this was something to be taken seriously. This was the report of an author of a book on botany.
My next stop was opposite of my first. One of the leading food scientists (and my personal favourite reference point for such questions, Harold McGee) has declared them as safe. At least this explains why I didn’t die when I ate them.
A newspaper article from the UK (in the Hackney Citizen) actually shares a recipe for carrot tops and quinoa in a salad.
A search on “Carrot tops” and “Homeopathy” reveal that carrot tops appear rampant in natural health and are listed as being high in vitamin K.
My final conclusion? It’s important to do your research and I’m not qualified to recommend what’s best for you on this one. My plan is to continue to research and see what I learn.
A big-time thanks to Anna for sharing her question – was a lot of fun looking this up and fascinating to see the different takes on the subject that ranged from delicious to death! Sometimes it feels like food science is more of an art.
Have your say below: