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RECIPE: Upcycled Food For Earth Day: Carrot Tops To Pesto

April 22nd is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the birth of the modern environmental movement.

Earth Day reminds people about the worrisome state of our planet, and what each of us can do to help.

Earth day reminds companies and individuals to do what they can for a clean environment, and fight the ravages of climate change.

On previous Earth Days, we’ve written about the small steps you can take, such as carrying a reusable water bottle and buying organic food. See them below.

Minimizing your food waste is another way you can help. Many people do this by composting.

But you can upcycle food like chef advocats are doing, using the trimmings that would have been thrown away—carrot peels and tops, for example—to make other food.

  • Boil apple cores with sugar to make apple juice.
  • Freeze vegetable trimmings until you’re ready to make stock.
  • Save bacon fat and use it to cook eggs, sauté vegetable, etc.
  • Roast potato peels and turn them into “fully loaded” with sour cream, cheddar and scallions.
  • Slice broccoli stalks thinly and add them to green salads, sautés or stir-frys.
  • Turn watermelon rind into watermelon pickles.
  • Use carrot tops, celery leaves and fennel fronds to decorate plates, instead of parsley.
    Here are more ideas.

    Check out the recipe below to turn leafy carrot tops into carrot top pesto.

    As individuals, we can do just so much. But instead of letting good food go to waste, more growers and manufacturers are finding ways to transform them into tasty upcycled products.

    For example:

  • Bruised fruits are sold to companies that make jam.
  • Coffee grounds are turned into a medium for growing mushrooms.
  • Misshapen fruits and vegetables that consumers wouldn’t buy are sold to juice manufacturers.
  • Squash seeds are pressed into squash oil (delicious!)
  • Vegetable stems are turned into makers of vegetable chips.
  • Whey leftover from making yogurt is used to make probiotic beverages.

    Recycling food introduces us to two new terms:

  • Ugly produce, the name given to fruits and vegetables that aren’t perfect enough to be sold at retail. They may be misshapen, blemished, but are just as delicious and nutritious as their aesthetically beautiful fellows. See our article on ugly produce for more about it.
  • Upcycling, the term given to recycling food trimmings into other recipes.
    In the U.S., 52 million tons of unwanted or unused food ends up in landfills annually, according to ReFed.

    The United States is the global leader in food waste, with Americans discarding nearly 40 million tons of food every year.

  • That’s 80 billion pounds of food and equates to more than $161 billion, approximately 219 pounds of waste per person and 30-40% of the U.S. food supply.
  • Most of this food is sent to landfills. Food is the single largest component taking up space inside U.S. landfills. In fact, it makes up 22% of municipal solid waste (source).
    From the freshwater used to grow the crops that become food waste, to the excess greenhouse gasses caused by producing food and landfills, food waste heavily impacts our environment.

    Trying to upcycle your food trimmings is one thing that you should do even one thing to help the environment,

    Here’s an easy recipe to start you off on upcycling food.

    Prep time is just 10 minutes.

    Ingredients For 1.5 Cups

  • 1 packed cup carrot tops*, hard stems removed and thoroughly washed
  • 1/2 packed cup baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives or scallions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 box Simple Mills Veggie Pita Mediterranean Herb Crackers or crackers of choice

    1. COMBINE the carrot tops, spinach, chives, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to a food processor.  Pulse until the greens are finely chopped.  

    2. ADD the pine nuts and pulse until the consistency is to your liking.  

    3. TASTE and adjust the seasonings as desired. Add more lemon juice or olive oil for a runnier pesto.  

    4. TRANSFER to a serving dish and serve with crackers.


  • 10 Things You Can Change: Just Pick One!
  • Five Green Things You Can Do To Help Save The Planet
  • Help The Water Bottle Crisis
  • Try Vegan Wraps
  • 10 Reasons To Eat More Organic Food

    [1] Carrot top pesto made from carrot tops, which are usually discarded. The recipe is below (photo © Simple Mills).

    [2] Serve the pesto with pita chips from Simple Mills. This is one of three flavors of Simple Mills Pita Crackers.

    [3] Most people cut and toss the carrot tops (photo © Good Eggs).

    Fresh Spinach
    [4] Add some baby spinach to the pesto (photo © Good Eggs).

    [5] Chop some scallions (photo © Burpee).

    Garlic Cloves
    [6] A bit of garlic enhances any pesto (photo Domain Image).

    [7] Classic pesto uses pine nuts, and so does our carrot top pesto (photo © Good Eggs).


    *Farmers markets sellers often give these away, since buyers ask them to cut the tops off before they put them in their bags.

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