The family members who taught me to cook have always tossed carrot tops/greens into the compost pile or the trash (and my regular grocery store carries carrots without tops), so I've never really thought about cooking with them before. Today, however, I bought some carrots with fresh, green tops, and it seems a shame to waste them. Can I safely cook with them, and if so, how?
I've never had them, but they are indeed edible. Due to the high amount of potassium in them they can be bitter. The World Carrot Museum (lol) even has an entire page for carrot greens, including several recipes.
They ARE edible and are highly nutritive, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. The tops of the carrots are loaded with potassium which can make them bitter, so the use of them in food is limited, but there some ideas and recipes below. The tops are antiseptic and can be juiced and used as a mouthwash.
However, it is edible, so you may mix some in with a mixed lettuce salad. You may also use it for garnish. Combine your common sense and your creative skills, and invent something! That's what makes cooking fun. It is a form of art. Carrot greens are high in vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself.
Carrot tops are an outstanding source of chlorophyll, the green pigment that studies have shown to combat the growth of tumours. Chlorophyll contains cleansing properties that purify the blood, lymph nodes, and adrenal glands. Scientists have been unable to synthesize chlorophyll in the laboratory, but green plant foods contain sufficient quantities to protect the human body.
I like hobodave's answer, but I'll put my .02 bucks on a negative answer: I tend to throw cooking debris in the stock pot. Onion skins, garlic peels, anything I might otherwise throw away. It's stock, right? Stock and stuffing exist to make use of leftovers.
But don't do this with carrot tops, it'll make your stock taste wonky. Had to make thanksgiving gravy with store broth that year. Blech.
Carrot greens are a great substitute for flat-leaf parsley in many dishes, especially ones that will be cooked, as the carrot greens tend to handle heat better than parsley. I use them in Beet Burgers along with the carrots themselves, with terrific results. You can also throw them in to seasoned breadcrumbs for a great topping for casseroles, etc.
I have used them to make a type of pesto. You blanch them first, shock, squeeze out the water, then proceed similarly to how you would with basil. Delicious on carrots that have themselves been blanched and shocked.
We tried diced carrot tops in some salmon patties, as a substitute for parsley, and it was fine. We sauteed them along with onions before adding to the mix.
I just used them in my chicken noodle soup - some cooked, some at the very last minute - and it was delicious! So much better than spending money on fresh parsley, which usually goes bad in my fridge before I can use all of it.
I love making a dry stir fry with carrot greens and coconut. It tastes similar to a kale stir-fry. This is one thing I miss back in my home country because here we dont get carrot greens when we buy carrots.