Don't Go Topless: Root Vegetables


Most people buy carrots, beets, turnips and radishes to eat the roots of these vegetables, but they often come with the tops still attached. Loaded with B vitamins, vitamin K, potassium and fiber, it is a shame to throw the greens in the trash. So, what should you do with them?

You could toss the leaves into a salad with other greens or sauté them with a bit of oil. You could even freeze the stems to use the next time you make a home-made vegetable stock if that’s your thing. If making vegetable stock from scratch seems like a stretch, whipping up a quick pesto or pickling stems may be the solution for you! It’s quite easy to pickle some stems and make pesto with all kinds of leaves, and the results are pretty tasty. These waste-reducing tactics will also help you jazz up your meals and snacks throughout the week.

Think Outside the Root: Ideas for Embracing Root-to-Leaf Cooking #saslife Click To Tweet

Below are some root-to-leaf inspired examples of what your tops could turn into.

Pickle the stems.

This is really quick and doesn’t require exact measurements. Full discloser — I’ve only tried this on beet stems, so proceed at your own risk if you’d like to try this with carrot, radish or turnip stems.

Pickled Beet Stems

Adapted from Just Beet It
Makes 2-4 servings


Stems from 1 large bunch of beets, cut into ½ inch slices
½ cup red wine vinegar
Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
¼ tsp ground pepper
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp honey (optional)


  1. Place beet stems in a small bowl or jar
  2. Bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan.
  3. Stir in thyme, salt, pepper and honey.
  4. Pour mixture over cut stems.
  5. Let stand at least 30 minutes.
  6. Eat now or refrigerate and enjoy for days to come.

How to Serve

  • Add to salads for some zing.
  • Pair with hard cheese, and serve as a snack.


Blend the leaves into a pesto.

This works with virtually any kind of edible leaves. Just pick your favorite nut, seasonings and oil, and blend away!

Radish Leaf Pesto  

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini
Makes about 1 cup


1 bunch radish leaves
¼ cup cashews
1-2 garlic cloves
Zest and juice from ½ lemon
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp salt


  1. Blend all ingredients in food processor.
  2. Scrape sides as needed.
  3. Add olive oil until you reach desired consistency.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  5. Pack into an airtight container such as a re-purposed glass jar.

Note: Use within a few days (it will keep longer if you pour a thin layer of oil on the surface) or freeze.

How to Serve

  • Topping for fish, poultry or beef
  • Dip for veggies
  • Stuffing for a sweet potato
  • Dressing for whole grains


And for those of you who aren’t sold on the whole root vegetable thing, cutting them into chips and roasting them is always a crowd pleaser.


Roasted Radish Chips

Adapted from Sugar-Free Mom
Makes 4 servings


1 bunch fresh radishes
1 Tbsp avocado oil
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Thinly slice radishes or use a mandolin.
  3. Place radish slices in a bowl and toss with oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Lay radishes onto 1-2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Don't overlap.
  5. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until edges are crispy.


  • Baking time changes based on the thickness of the chips.
  • This recipe works well with almost all root vegetables. Increase cooking time for larger vegetables. Beet chips take 35-50 minutes and need to be flipped after about 20 minutes.

About Author

Jen Sohl-Marion, MPH, RDN, LDN

Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs

Jen is the Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. Outside of work, Jen enjoys hiking with her family, practicing yoga and spending quality time with her dogs.


  1. This is so neat! I'd never really thought about the fact that the stems of these foods are actually edible. I'm always looking for ways to reduce my waste so this is a great place to get started. Having all the "extra bits" attached to these vegetables made me inclined to buy the plastic-wrapped, pre-cut types. But now that I have ideas for the whole thing, it's a better investment and less "hassle" to get the whole food! Thanks 🙂

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