Never Toss the Tops on These 5 Veggies

Never Toss the Tops on These 5 Veggies

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Sheela Prakash
Apr 20, 2016
(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Being mindful of food waste isn't always about the big stuff. Taking on an issue of that magnitude in your own home kitchen may seem like a drop in the sea, but starting small makes it feel possible.

If you're looking for a super-simple, very tasty way to eliminate some of the food waste in your own cooking, it's time to consider the vegetable from tip to top.

There are plenty of vegetables whose tops we mindlessly lop off, which is a shame because their tops can be equally, if not more delicious than, the root or bulb they're attached to. If you're shopping at a grocery store, finding veggies with their tops in tact is hit or miss. When you do spot them, scoop them up — you're getting more veggie for your buck.

Here are five vegetables whose tops deserve some attention.

1. Radishes

The greens on top of radishes are peppery and pungent, much like the radishes themselves. They tend to wilt quickly when attached to the roots, so chop them off as soon as possible, keep them stored separately, and use them within a day if you can. Sauté radish greens just like any other leafy green — perhaps with a little garlic and red pepper flakes, whirled into pesto, or even cooked down and puréed in soup.

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2. Fennel

You can use the mild, anise-flavored fronds of fennel like you would any fresh herb. My favorite way to use them is to make a light, bright pesto that's wonderful tossed with pasta or served alongside grilled fish. Or chop up the fronds and add them to salads, smoothies, or even salt. You can also stuff them inside the cavity of a chicken or a whole fish before roasting. If you still have some leftover, freeze them and toss them into the pot the next time you make homemade chicken or vegetable stock for a subtle licorice aroma.

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3. Beets

With a flavor similar and texture to that of Swiss chard or kale, beets greens are wonderful prepared in much the same way. Chop them up and then sauté them, braise them, toss them into soups or stews, add them to smoothies, use them in pasta, and even turn them into crispy chips.

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4. Carrots

No, carrot tops aren't toxic — we've already debunked that myth. They're herbaceous with a flavor similar to parsley. Try adding them to salads and tucking them into sandwiches. Turn them into a fresh-tasting pesto, add them to hummus, or chop them up finely with other herbs to make a unique chimichurri or gremolata that's perfect over grilled meat and roasted vegetables.


5. Turnips

Turnip greens are a staple in Southern cooking, and for good reason — they're hearty, flavorful, and super nutritious. They do, however, come with a bitter bite, but it's tamed by cooking. The classic way to prepare them is to cook them down with salt pork, bacon, or a ham hock, but you can also sauté them like you would any leafy green.

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