Whether growing your own carrots or buying them from a local farm, get more mileage out of these flavorful vegetable garden favorites.

Carrots come in many colors and their sweet, earthy flavor and crisp texture make them a delicious addition to all kinds of dishes, whether roasted, pickled, or straight from the garden. Discover all the ways you can make the most of these long-lasting, nutritious vegetables with eight quick tips for growing and using them creatively in the kitchen, from root to top.

illustration of a bunch of carrots in a colander and a few carrots on a cutting board with a knife

Illustration © Harriet Popham, excerpted from Vegetable Gardening Wisdom

1. When weather heats up in late spring and summer, keep carrots well mulched to hold in moisture and prevent the soil from getting too warm.

2. For root crops, too much nitrogen results in lush green tops but meager roots that, in the case of carrots and parsnips, can be forked or twisty instead of long and straight. Be careful not to overfeed them or grow in too-rich soil.

illustration of ingredients for carrot top pesto

Illustration © Harriet Popham, excerpted from Vegetable Gardening Wisdom

3. In the Kitchen — Carrot-Top Pesto: Don’t toss carrot tops! These overlooked greens are completely edible and taste a bit like their cousin, parsley. Preserve raw carrot greens by making carrot-top pesto. Pulse together 1½ cups coarsely chopped carrot greens, ¼ cup roasted nuts (such as pecans or cashews), 1 clove garlic, and ½ cup olive oil. Add ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Adjust the ingredients to get a consistency you like.

4. Wait to pull up carrots until after the roots begin to push up out of the soil. To keep the exposed tops from turning green, you can hill up a little soil around them until harvest.

5. Purple varieties of carrots lose much of their color when cooked, because the anthocyanins making the pretty purple hue decompose quickly when exposed to heat. Add an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar when cooking to help retain some of the color.

6. In the Kitchen — Make your own powdered greens for smoothies by dehydrating leftover kale, mustard greens, carrot tops, or beet tops, grinding them into a powder in a blender or with mortar and pestle, and storing in an airtight jar or zip-top bag.

7. In the Kitchen — Save scraps, like onion ends, carrot peels, broccoli stems, celery ends, mushroom stems, extra herbs, and more, for making your own vegetable broth. Keep scraps in a freezer bag until you’re ready, then simmer the veggies in water on the stove or in a slow cooker for a couple of hours. Strain, cool, and store in the fridge or freezer. Your homemade broth will infuse cozy soups and stews with fresh-from-the- garden flavor all winter long.

8. Dig up fall-grown carrots before the ground freezes. Clip the green tops off, leaving about an inch of stem, to prolong storage life.

Text excerpted and adapted slightly from Vegetable Gardening Wisdom © 2019 by Kelly Smith Trimble. All rights reserved.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Kelly Smith Trimble is the author of Vegetable Gardening Wisdom. She has been a lifestyle editor for nearly 20 years, working for brands such as HGTV, Southern Living, Lowe's,… See Bio

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Vegetable Gardening Wisdom

by Kelly Smith Trimble

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