Don't Toss Those Vegetable Tops!

Want to be an on-trend chef without leaving your own kitchen, and without needing any high-level skills?  Here's your chance!  "Root-to-stalk" cooking (and the corollary "nose-to-tail" cooking) were named among the top 25 Tableservice Menu Trends for 2014 in a National Restaurant Association survey.  And the trend hasn't abated in the last couple of years:  that same forecast for 2016 included wastage reduction and environmental sustainability, two of the biggest benefits of using the whole plant.  An emphasis on using all of a plant's resources also stimulates creativity in the kitchen, which is always a good thing.  (Except when it's not:  check out some of these hilariously wrong-headed creative culinary endeavours.)

So, let's get started.  I love this recipe because it makes a delicious meal out of something most everyone throws away (radish greens), and something a lot of people throw away (beet stalks and leaves).  And what a waste!  Radish greens contain as much as six times the vitamin C content of the radish root.  And radish greens appear alongside broccoli and kale in a list of vegetables that contain high levels of anti-cancer compounds called sulporaphane indoles in the book "Healthy Longevity Techniques: East-West Anti-Aging Strategies," by Joseph P. Hou, Ph.D. 

Similarly, beet greens are highly nutritious, packed with minerals, and a great source of iron.  They also contain more calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C than the beet roots, making them potentially more nutritious and lower in sugar than the roots, according to naturopath Michael T, Murray, in his book "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods."

And on a "keeping it real" level, this dish has the three qualities I seek in my day-to-day cooking: it's easy; it's fast; and it's economical.  In fact, you can often score free radish greens and beet tops at your local farmers' market; lots of folks at my market ask the vendors to remove those parts for them.  The vendors are happy for me to take them off their hands.  (Kind of a more palatable version of dumpster diving, if you will.)

Here's a video for the visual learners.  The written recipe is below.


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 medium potatoes

1 medium onion

1 quart water or broth

2 bunches radish greens, or 1 bunch radish and 1 bunch beet tops (about 2 quarts of greens)

zest and juice of one lemon

salt & pepper


Chop the potatoes, onion, and greens into medium-size pieces.  

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Saute the onions and potatoes for about 5 minutes.

Add the broth, the greens, and a teaspoon of salt.  Cook until the potatoes are soft and the greens wilted, a good 10 minutes or so.

Add half to three-fourths of the lemon zest and juice, reserving the remainder.

Blend in batches.

Return the to the pot and check for seasoning.  Add more of the lemon if you like, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

You're done!

Leave a comment below if you like this recipe (or if you want to suggest some modifications), and I will post a great way to use your carrot tops!


Bonus video:

Now that we've taken care of the leaves, let's do something with the root!  Pickling radishes is super simple; plus, pickling was the number one trend in preparation methods for 2016 in that survey I mentioned above, so you can impress your friends by being au courant, if that type of thing appeals to you.

Recipe from "Frenchie" by Greg Marchand