After posting the recipe yesterday, I decided to do a little research on the nutritional value of carrot tops. Wow! Was I in for a surprise! While every site hails the nutritional benefits of the root, there are conflicting reports on whether or not greens are safe to eat. I must premise this information with the fact that I felt no ill effects after making my delicious recipe last night, nor when I ate the leftovers for lunch again today (YUM!). However, below I will present a summary of the information learned through my quick research.
First the good stuff: Carrot greens are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. They contain 6 times the vitamin C of the root and are a great source of potassium and calcium. The greens are an excellent source of chlorophyll, which has been noted to purify the blood, lymph nodes and adrenal glands. They have also been noted to deter tumor growth.
And the not so good: To understand where the concerns lie, it’s interesting to note that the modern carrot was originally cultivated from Queen Anne's Lace, also known as the "wild carrot." This plant is topped with fern like greens and contains a single root, which resembles a pale carrot, and is also edible. However, it's the greens of the Queen Anne's Lace that can get a person into trouble. The leaves contain alkaloids, a group of organic compounds that contain such nasty poisons as strychnine, cocaine, and caffeine. In the old days, the seeds from Queen Anne's Lace were even used to prevent pregnancies or induce abortions. While the greens of the common garden-variety of carrot aren't quite as deadly as that of the wild carrot, some still regard them as toxic due to the presence of both alkaloids and nitrates in the greens. While many report the greens leaving a bitter taste in the mouth, others experience some of the side effects of exposure to alkaloids or nitrates. These include a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, increased heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, agitation and possibly even death.
So why do some people get sick while eating carrot greens and others don't? Carrots pull nitrates out of the soil during its growth. The levels of nitrates fluctuate with the growing season. Since home gardeners have no way of knowing at when the nitrate levels are high and when they are safe, some recommend not eating carrot greens at all.
As I mentioned earlier, I did not experience any of the side effects mentioned. I, will, however stress the importance of eating organic carrot greens. One concern is the toxicity due to the high levels of nitrates in the carrot greens. I posted on an earlier occasion that carrots are like the sponge of the farming world and are often used as a throw away crop, to cleanse a field of dangerous nitrates. Again, whether or not you decide to eat the greens, always, always buy organic carrots!