I started growing food from scraps a few years ago when I experimented with a head of lettuce. Since then, I’ve played with other veggie scraps, and by far the easiest vegetable to grow from scraps is carrot greens.
You can’t grow a whole new carrot from your tops, despite what you may see on the internet. But you can regrow tasty greens to add a slightly bitter depth to recipes. Plus, you’re using the parts that you’d normally toss out!
Here’s how to get going.
Best Varieties to Regrow
I love carrots, not just because I can convince my kids they’ll be able to see in the dark if they eat them, but because the greens we normally throw away are tasty and have an impressive number of nutrients.
The carrot itself is a taproot that won’t regrow. But if you use the right carrot variety, you may be able to produce your own seed to plant and grow a whole new plant.
If you’re doing this as a fun activity with your kids, or just want some healthy greens, use any carrot. Buy the nice, big ones from the store and use those tops.
I like to grow a lot of bushy greens and I’ve had some success in allowing the greens to flower and seed. If you want seeds, you need to regrow heirloom varieties.
The following four heirlooms did particularly well for me. Remember though, you can plant any variety from your garden or from the store. They will all grow greens, so don’t worry – use what you have.
This heirloom variety was a winner in the All America Selections in 1933 and it’s been popular ever since. I use it because it’s a big carrot that produces a good size top and it grows a lot of greens. It is also a reliable grower.
This is a fast-growing heirloom variety that sprouts greens quickly, as well. I found the greens of Little Fingers were smaller and less dense than Imperator 58, but grew to harvest size quicker.
This is a carrot that grows shaped like a large golf ball. The good thing about it is the large circumference of the top tends to grow a good amount of greens.
This heirloom is a long variety and the greens are just as long, so it’s a perfect variety for growing greens.
Two Methods to Grow Carrot Greens
You have two options when growing carrot greens from scraps. You can either use water or soil.
Once you start carrots the carrots in water, you can also move them into some soil once they have a few tiny roots started.
- Choose a container. Use a shallow bowl or saucer. I use a rectangle pie dish because I prefer to grow about 12 or more carrot tops at once. Every time I use carrots in a recipe, I add the top to the container. This way I have lots of tops, all at various stages of green growth.
- Add the carrot tops. When you cut the tops off your carrots, leave about an inch of the root and the green stump. Try to cut them level so they sit stable in the container.
- Place them in the container. Sit the carrot tops in the container and fill with water halfway up the carrot top.
- Provide sunshine. Place the container with tops on the windowsill and allow the sun to warm them through the window.
- Change the water every day. Tip the water out of the container and refresh it daily.
- Watch the growth. In about four days, the carrot tops will form little white roots and the greens will start to form on top. Within three to four weeks, the greens will be fully formed. This may take much less time, depending on the carrot variety.
- Harvest. You can use the greens at any point in their growth. If you are going to replant them in soil, wait for four weeks and the greens to fully develop.
- Choose a container. You will need a container that drains water well so use a plant pot or a can with holes drilled in the bottom. Place this container in a bowl or saucer to catch the water that drains out.
- Use seed raising mix. Fill with good quality seed raising mix or potting mix. Fill to about two inches from the top.
- Plant the tops. Make a small hole with your finger and place the carrot top in the hole. Cover with your chosen medium, leaving the green stump exposed.
- Water well. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist all the time. The greens will start to grow in as little as four days to a couple of weeks.
Snip and use the greens as and when you need them and let the plant continue to produce. Keep in mind that eventually, it will stop producing.
I planted the carrots in soil to have a row of ferns in a small pot. If I need some greens for a recipe, I snip off what I need and let the rest grow. They make a lovely visual addition to the garden.
Once you take all of the greens, you’re unlikely to get any more growth.
Grow Carrot Seeds From Carrot Tops
While you’re growing carrots from scraps, you may be able to grow carrot seeds if you allow your greens to flower and go to seed. You can then plant those seeds and have entirely new carrot plants.
Use heirloom varieties for this as the hybrid carrots are not likely to grow true to form. They will fork, be stunted or not grow at all.
I grew seeds in this manner and had a reasonable crop when I planted them. Try both the water and soil method and see what works for you.
With carrot tops, allow your greens to flower. The umbels won’t be anywhere near the size of your garden carrot, but they will produce seeds if you’re lucky.
As the flowers begin to die off, snip into a paper bag and allow the umbel to dry and die completely. Once this happens, seal the top of the bag and gently shake the seeds free.
This is a hit and miss method because carrots are biennial. This means they will grow the taproot and greens in year one and the flowers and seeds in year two.
Still, it’s worth a try since you’re simply using parts that you’d toss out anyway.
Use this method in your garden as well to grow seeds. In the garden, leave one or two of your best-looking carrots to overwinter and grow the next year into a flowering carrot.
You’ll never have to buy carrot seeds again.
Top Tips to Grow Carrot Greens
- When using the water method, change the water daily.
- If the carrot top begins to mold or rot, discard it.
- Use any carrot top, but if you want to try for seeds, use heirloom varieties
- Buy carrots that still have the greens attached. Often the ones you buy in a plastic bag have the top completely removed.
Using Carrot Greens
Most people cut the tops off and discard the greens. They are actually tasty and nutritious. Here are a few ideas for using them:
- Carrot green pesto using cashews
- Sautee with garlic for a zingy side dish
- Add to any salad
- Chimichurri using carrot greens
- Finely chop the greens into grated carrot fritters
- Sneak it into any meal if your kids don’t like to eat greens
It isn’t hard to grow greens from carrot scraps and it’s a fun project for your kids. If you’re into healthy eating and want some variety with your greens, carrot greens are nutritious, healthy, and a great addition to a range of meals.