Carrot Top Pesto & Musings on Food Waste

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Waste not, want not. While at university my friend and classmate Kelsie would recite these words whenever someone questioned her approach to eating a pear or apple. Let me take a moment to acknowledge that this sounds like a really odd thing to question. Trust me though, Kelsie  cleans a core like no one I’ve ever seen. And in a room full of students studying nutrition and obsessed with food, that’s something that demands attention.  

If you’re a regular reader of the blog you know that I share Kelsie’s sentiment, doing my best to avoid wasting food. While in previous posts I’ve incorporated subtle suggestions for using up odds and ends of random ingredients, I haven’t gone into the depth of my aversion to food waste, or taken the time to fully explain why I’m so passionate about the topic.  In today’s post I’ll talk about my personal motivations, and share a recipe for getting the most out of a bunch of carrots.

For me, there are three main driving factors behind my desire to avoid wasting food:

1 – I love food

Why would I want to waste something that I love and could otherwise enjoy? Finding creative ways to maximize what’s in my fridge, pantry or garden is, for me at least, part of the fun of cooking.

2 – Wasted food is wasted money

While I am incredibly fortunate to have never had to worry when or where my next meal will come from, I do not take my access to healthy food for granted. I recognize that many individuals are not as fortunate, and someday I may not be either. I feel a fundamental duty to be a good steward of my food budget: to be thoughtful in my purchasing decisions, and strive to get the most out of the ingredients that I am able to purchase.

3 – Climate change and sustainable food sources

There is no doubt that the global hunger crisis is now more real than ever before. We have an ever increasing global population, and fewer and fewer resources to produce nutritious food in support of it. Food production is not only negatively impacted by the effects of climate change, but wasted food that ends up in landfill actually contributes to greenhouse gas production, further compounding the issue.

None of my reasons for reducing food waste are mutually exclusive. They are rooted in a passion for sustainability of our planet, and our ability to feed its inhabitants which, despite an increasing population, should be possible: it is estimated that 28% of the world’s agricultural land is used to produce food that ends up as waste (1).

The good news is that the message of the ecological and economic impacts of food waste is garnering more and more public attention. Examples of initiatives gaining traction include those that support the purchase and consumption of so-called ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables;  or hosting dinners made entirely from food we typically think of as waste, like this recent menu crafted by Vancouver chef David Gunawan, featuring a potato skin ice cream.

While potato skin ice cream is perhaps a bit of an intimidating place to start cooking with so-called food waste, today’s post uses more approachable carrot tops to make a fresh, delicious pesto. It’s far more economical than purchasing pesto off the shelf, not to mention satisfying knowing that you got every last penny out of that bundle of carrots. It’s best made using locally sourced carrots, on which the greens tend to be abundant and leafy.



  • 1 cup generously packed fresh basil
  • 1 bunch of carrots, leafy tops only, about 3 cups packed
  • ½ cup blanched almonds, roasted and cooled
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of one lemon, about 2 tbsp
  • ½ -1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ½- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste


Thoroughly wash basil and carrot tops, paying careful attention to remove all dirt and grit, in the carrot tops especially. Remove excess water using a salad spinner or clean kitchen towels. Discard (i.e. compost, if possible) any particularly thick or tough stems from both the basil and carrot tops.

Place almonds in food processor and pulse briefly. Add garlic and continue to pulse until a fine crumb is formed (don’t go too far, or you’ll end up with almond butter). Add basil and carrot greens, and squeeze in lemon. Pulse again briefly to begin to break up the greens.

With food processor running, drizzle in oil until the mixture easily blends, and desired consistency is reached. Add in parmesan. Pulse again briefly, adding a little more oil if needed. Taste and season as necessary.

Store in a glass jar in the fridge, and use as desired. I love having a big jar of this on hand to toss with pasta or roasted vegetables, spread on sandwiches (especially grilled cheese) or to make a quick aioli.

1 Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN. Facts and figures on food waste, or to read the FAO’s report Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources visit their website.