While chatting with my parents over Skype last weekend:
Me: Look at these heirloom carrots that I bought at the rooftop garden! (excitedly dangling a mess of carrot greens and orange blobs)
Mum: Ah, they are small and round.
Me: Cute, eh? Rather unusual from what we would get at the supermarkets… and, they taste really good, with a, erm, carrotty (for the lack of a better adjective) taste.
Mum: That’s a lot of leaves. They are edible by the way – for instance, you can use them for making soup.
Me: Really? Hmmm.
Potage-Toit: Urban Garden in Brussels
I had read about the rooftop terrace at the Bibliothèque royale de Belgique in Brussels (thanks to S Marks the Spot!) Even though the library is round the corner from my office, I had never gone into the building.
What a gem it turned out to be!
I like the modernist 1960s architecture and design. The views from the higher floors – especially the 5th storey where the cafeteria and rooftop terrace are located – are impressive.
Tucked away on one end of the rooftop is Potage-Toit, an organic urban garden that was created in 2012 to make use of the wide open space atop the library.
Not only can you visit the garden and find out more from the team that tends to the plants, you can also buy freshly harvested produce (Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1300-1400). These include herbs like basil and rosemary, vegetables such as squash and eggplant, as well as edible flowers.
Most of the plants are laid out in the open in sacks of compost-dirt. There is a geodesic dome-shaped greenhouse that serves as a nursery for the garden. The team at Potage-Toit uses only seeds that are organic and come from Belgian farmers who preserve the biodiversity, including heirloom varieties.
When we were there last Friday, the tomatoes were sold out. We bought what was left: A box of purple long beans, an irregularly shaped cucumber and a bunch of short and round carrots.
Total cost: 7€, which is a little more expensive that what you would pay in a supermarket or bio shop.
But it was worth it as the beans, cucumber and carrots had such intense flavours compared to what we would get in a supermarket – I suppose this is what they are supposed to taste like! Plus, these were carefully cultivated by hand instead of being produced en masse.
The carrots were so good that it seemed like a shame to cook them. So we ate them raw, together with the cucumber, with a dash of salt and pepper.
What remained was the bunch of carrot tops (also known as “carrot greens”).
As I have no garden (yet) at my place, it wasn’t possible to throw them in the compost. I’ve heard of people making vegetable stock with carrot tops but wasn’t keen on making any.
Then came an idea: How about making pesto with carrot tops?
Recipe: Carrot Top Pesto
I found a simple carrot top pesto recipe on Bon Appetit and below is my adaptation.
2 cups carrot tops (excluding the stems)
½ cup basil leaves, packed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup olive oil – the original recipe uses 1/2 cup
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons of unsalted nuts – I used a mix of almonds, brazil nuts and hazelnuts instead of macadamia or pine nuts
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Pulse garlic and nuts in a food processor until a coarse paste forms.
2. Add basil, Parmesan, and reserved carrot tops; process until a coarse paste forms.
3. Add olive oil and pulse until combined; season with salt and pepper.
The recipe in Bon Appetit mixes the carrot top pesto with roasted carrots. I think it would be great as a pesto in pasta too. Meanwhile, I’m eating dollops of this delicious carrot top pesto spread over bread. Yums!
P.S. You might have noticed that the carrots are different in the last picture – this is because I had to buy more carrots (from the supermarket) in order to make some roasted carrots.