Hawai‘i Farmers Market Adventures: Carrot-Top Pesto Family Recipe

Don’t toss those carrot tops. Here’s a recipe by a local chef that is mom-daughter tested and approved.


Carrot Top Pesto Thinkstock

Photo: Thinkstock


We’ve taken Isabella to farmers markets since she was very young. In fact, for years she thought everyone always ate corn on the cob on a skewer, covered with furikake since we always had her snacking on an ear while we did our shopping. The market is a wonderful way for children to see all the fresh produce before it ends up on their plates. Like most families, we do tend to buy certain vegetables and fruits every week. It can be challenging to get kids interested in something new (bok choy, anyone?).


Whenever the kids discover something interesting, we buy it and hit the internet or Pinterest for ideas. We find that when the kids make the selection and think through how to prepare it, they are more invested in the dish and are more likely to try it. We’ve had some hits and some misses but we always seem to learn something.


One thing we enjoy is seeing the multitude of colors that naturally occur in fruits and vegetables. Isabella spotted purple carrots and wondered if they tasted the same as the more typical orange variety. She was working on a recipe involving carrots and honey, so it seemed the perfect time to try them.


Isabella: I am part of (a former group) called Littlest Co-op at the Kaka‘ako Farmers Market. It is run by kids and we sell plants that we have grown. If you are looking for liliko‘i or Crown Flower plants, you will usually find some at our booth. We sell all kinds of fruits and veggies from our garden, and sometimes we even bring our chicken eggs.


We decided to make honey-roasted carrots because it was healthy, it tastes good and you can find all of the ingredients at the market. I like honey-roasted carrots and I also like eating the carrots plain or dipped in hummus. We usually feed the carrot tops to our chicken but my mom saw a recipe that used the tops for pesto so we decided to try it.


Photo: Michele Aucello


We bought orange carrots from MA‘O Farms and some purple carrots. There are different kinds of honey at the honey booth. My favorite is Christmas Berry. The people are very nice—they will let you try them all!


Back at home, it was hard scrubbing the carrots. The easy part was cutting them. I was surprised that the purple carrots were not purple all the way through.


I make pesto all the time. It’s fun and easy. We made this one from carrot tops and basil from our garden. It tasted awesome!


Photo: Michele Aucello


Honey-Roasted Carrots



  • 2 bunches of young, tender carrots from a farmers market (you can also use a bag of baby carrots)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter



  1. Remove the greens and scrub the carrots. Put the tops in a bowl of water to clean them. Cut the carrots into slices of similar size. You may need to cut the slices from the larger end of the carrot in half.
  2. Cook the carrots in boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain then put the carrots back in the pan. Add the honey and butter and cook for another couple of minutes until carrots are glazed.


Carrot Top Pesto

(adapted from Ed Kenney’s recipe in Bon Appetit)



  • 2 cups carrot tops, washed well and spun or patted dry
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of pine nuts or other nuts
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil



Place the nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until they are ground up. Add the greens, olive oil, and cheese and pulse until combined. Season with salt.


Mom Tips


  • The kids can make most of these dishes with little help. Glazing the carrots and scraping the pesto out of the food processor might need adult hands.
  • Wash the carrot tops well—they tend to be sandy and gritty.
  • Toast the pine nuts for better flavor, but let them cool completely before adding them, as warm nuts will make the pesto turn a darker green.
  • You can substitute any greens (basil, kale, Swiss chard, spinach) and nuts (walnut, almond, pecan, macadamia nuts, pine nuts) and use Pecorino cheese or a mixture of Parmesan and Pecorino.
  • Use the best quality EVOO you can for optimal taste.