Can You Eat Broccoli Leaves?

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Are broccoli leaves good eating?

Using Broccoli Leaves – Can You Eat Broccoli Leaves. … Can you eat broccoli leaves? Yes! In fact, using broccoli leaves just as you would any other greens, like kale or spinach, is a great way to perk up salads and other dishes.

Are broccoli leaves toxic?

In fact, broccoli leaves are edible. You can eat all parts of the broccoli plant. You can eat the broccoli crown, stem and leaves. The only poisonous parts of broccoli are the seeds.

What parts of a broccoli plant are edible?

Broccoli has two main edible parts, the florets — the dark green forest-y tops which are actually undeveloped flower buds — and the stalk — the pale green undercarriage like the trunk of a tree.

And Im talking the broad outer leaves that surround a head of broccoli, not the few tiny and uninspiring leaves stuck to the head of store-bought broccoli.

This specialty vegetable that you sometimes see at farmers markets or gourmet grocers is simply a bonus harvest not broccoli picked early. That means if youre a gardener whos used to composting broccoli leaves or ignoring them while you wait for the heads to form, you are missing out on the many free health benefits of this amazing crop.

If you grow your own broccoli, you can start to harvest a few of the outer (older) leaves every week once they reach 4 to 6 inches long. After the plant forms a crown, you can harvest the broccoli head but continue to pick the leaves until you can no longer keep up seriously! Broccoli is an incredible cut-and-come-again crop, and new leaves remain tender even when the rest of the plant is getting tall and unwieldy.

(Its hard to tell without a frame of reference, but the tallest broccoli plant in the back had grown almost 5 feet tall!) You can eat broccoli leaves raw or you can cook them a number of ways; heat makes them sweeter. If you pick younger broccoli leaves off the plant, theyre tender enough to toss raw into a salad or stuff into a sandwich.

Medium leaves are the perfect size and thickness to fill with veggies and meat, la cabbage rolls. Large leaves work best in braises, soups, and stews, where theyll stand up to a long simmer and soak up loads of rich flavor. Broccoli greens can be used in place of collards, kale, cabbage, or chard in many recipes, though they have their own distinct flavor.

But if you harvest the central stalk before it grows too woody, you can peel the tough outer skin to reveal a crunchy sweetness underneath.

Yes, you can eat broccoli leaves, and theyre delicious, but even as a veteran chef, until I met some farm broccoli growing in a garden, I didnt know about them at all.

My friends at Dragsmith Farm grow leaf broccoli near Barron Wisconsin, and its excellent and I used to order it by the 25# case. If you harvest too many leaves early in the growing season, you could stunt the plants growth and prevent yourself from getting broccoli florets.

If you grow species of broccoli specifically designed for their leaves like spigariello or other broccoli leaves, like the kinds youll find in deer plot seed mix, this is less of an issue since the plants wont use their energy to develop flower stalks. That being said, to really notice a difference in taste, youll want to harvest broccoli leaves and others after multiple hard frosts, not just one wimpy one. Quick side note: spring-dug parsnips and carrots left in the ground to overwinter also benefit from the same effect.

Think of cooking and eating broccoli leaves just like you would any other firm, sturdy leafy green like collards or kale. I clip the leaves with a small knife or scissors, then I bring them back to the kitchen and strip the midrib/stem out of each leaf. Remove the ribs, then cut into pieces and steam for 30 seconds, or until theyre tender and taste good to you.

Remove the ribs, cut the leaves into pieces and put in a pot with 2 inches of water. Remove the ribs from leaves, steam them for 1 minute until they wilt, then fill with a meat and rice stuffing. If you have some extra land, and, say, have hunters that rent from you, or like to hunt yourself, consider planting a deer food plot with a brassica seed blend.

These commonly contain varieties of leaf broccoli, as well as delicious turnips, radishes, and mustard greens you and animals can eat. This is a great way to have a low-maintenace garden to produce extra food, and, if you eat meat or want to attract hunters to lease your land, rest assured, the deer will come. Print Recipe Steamed broccoli leaves or kale with anchovy vinaigrette and parmesan will remind you of Caesar salad, but is much lighter.

8 oz broccoli leaves, ribs removed and cut into large squares 2 Tablespoons Anchovy vinaigrette or to taste High quality parmesan grated, peeled, shaved–your choice Fresh ground black pepper for serving Print Recipe The simplest way I know to cook broccoli leaves, taught to me my a chef from Italy. 8 oz (8 cups) Broccoli leaves stems removed, leaves cut into 1 inch strips, rinsed and dried Kosher salt to taste Fresh wedges of lemon to taste 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil plus more for finishing Crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional) 2 large cloves of garlic thinly sliced 1 tablespoon of water or dry white wine optional

Add the crushed red pepper and broccoli leaves to the pan along with the tablespoon of water or wine and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Weve listed a couple of tasty, printable broccoli leaves recipes later in this post. But, weve also included tips on how to harvest the leaves if youre growing your own vegetables. Thats because so many of you are growing your own food. Plus, weve added a number of links to help you grow abundant foods no matter how big or small your garden.

Using a sharp knife, slice out that central flower head (or crown), and leave the rest of the plant in place. Smaller broccoli florets will likely form along the intact stalk, arising from buds at the base of the remaining leaves.

Like the central crown, the axillary florets will get tough and unpalatable if you let them grow long and open their flowers. When you harvest your big, central broccoli crown, youll probably end up cutting out a few leaves as well. Clip lower leaves on your broccoli plant first, removing them where they meet the stem by cutting or snapping.

Once you have harvested all the side florets from your broccoli plant (at a certain point the plant will either run out of side buds for production or just wear out from having everything taken from it), go ahead and trim out the rest of the leaves as well as the central stalk, much of which is truly delicious as well just chop off the toughest portions and peel off the exterior layer to reveal the crunchy sweetness of the central stem. The roots, leaf midribs, and the toughest portions of the stalk are food for your compost heap. Youll need a high powered blender to fully macerate all the whole food ingredients in this tasty smoothie.

(If your mixture is thicker than you prefer, add a bit more water or coconut milk to thin.) Much like ever-popular kale chips, these are super easy to make from the gleanings of your broccoli crop!

The growth habit of broccoli plants

Unless you grow them yourself, you never see the massive greens that broccoli heads spring from.On my Romanesco broccoli plantEven though the plant is typically grown for its flower bud (what you commonly know as a head of broccoli, or a floret or crown), the flower is a relatively small part of the crop, and it seems like you wait alllll spring (or fall) for the prize.(A prize that sometimes never arrives, as anyone who has waited fruitlessly for a bud can attest to! But that’s a different post on the ails of growing broccoli at home.)A broccoli plant only produces one significant head per life cycle, with occasional secondary sprouts that form in the axils of the leaves.These side shoots always turn out smaller than the center head (think bite-sized), which is where baby broccoli comes from. This specialty vegetable that you sometimes see at farmers’ markets or gourmet grocers is simply a bonus harvest — not broccoli picked early.Knowing all that, it seems wasteful to use such a modest portion of the plant when the rest of it is so good.

Health benefits of broccoli and broccoli leaves

Broccoli is considered one of the most nutritious vegetables on the market, providing 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin C in a single cup of chopped broccoli.It contains a full nutritional lineup of B vitamins, potassium, iron, calcium, minerals, and fiber.When compared to the stems, the florets have a higher concentration of protective phytochemicals like beta carotene and sulforaphane (the latter of which has been shown to protect against certain cancers).But broccoli leaves are their own superfood, withThat means if you’re a gardener who’s used to composting broccoli leaves or ignoring them while you wait for the heads to form, you are missing out on the many free health benefits of this amazing crop.

How to harvest broccoli leaves

If you grow your own broccoli, you can start to harvest a few of the outer (older) leaves every week once they reach 4 to 6 inches long.After the plant forms a crown, you can harvest the broccoli head but continue to pick the leaves until you can no longer keep up… seriously!Broccoli is an incredible cut-and-come-again crop, and new leaves remain tender even when the rest of the plant is getting tall and unwieldy.When I lived in Southern California, I could keep my broccoli growing year-round in the mild coastal climate (zone 10b).These second-year plants were still thriving despite having all the crowns harvested moons ago, and on some of the plants, I’d stripped them clean of leaves to cook with!(It’s hard to tell without a frame of reference, but the tallest broccoli plant in the back had grown almost 5 feet tall!)Let’s just say… we got our fill and didn’t grow anymore broccoli the following year.

How to use and cook broccoli greens

Texture- and appearance-wise, broccoli greens are similar to collard greens, as both plants belong to the mustardThe large leaves may look intimidating, but they’re easy to harvest and work with in the kitchen. You can eat broccoli leaves raw or you can cook them a number of ways; heat makes them sweeter.If you pick younger broccoli leaves off the plant, they’re tender enough to toss raw into a salad or stuff into a sandwich.Medium leaves are the perfect size and thickness to fill with veggies and meat, à la cabbage rolls. I also like to wrap them around a chicken salad or tuna salad (instead of using tortillas or pitas)Large leaves work best in braises, soups, and stews, where they’ll stand up to a long simmer and soak up loads of rich flavor. They can even take a quick sear on the grill (try misting them with a little oil and seasoning with salt and pepper).You can make broccoli leaf chips the same way you make kale chips. If you’re a fan of green smoothies, you can even juice broccoli leaves.Broccoli greens can be used in place of collards, kale, cabbage, or chard in many recipes, though they have their own distinct flavor. The leaves taste earthy, mildly bitter, and faintly of broccoli (which means people who are usually not fond of broccoli may take a liking to the leaves).I typically don’t eat the stems on larger leaves, since I find them too fibrous. But if you harvest the central stalk before it grows too woody, you can peel the tough outer skin to reveal a crunchy sweetness underneath.

Italian Spigarielo /leaf broccoli

Broccoli leaves have been eaten by Italians for a long time, in fact they actually have a couple different types of broccoli grown only for it’s leaves called spigariello, also known as leaf broccoli, spig kale, spigariello liscia (it’s stillMy friends at Dragsmith Farm grow leaf broccoli near Barron Wisconsin, and it’s excellent and I used to order it by the 25# case. Seeds are easily found online for planting, too (see link at the bottom of the page).

Treat like collard greens

Think of cooking and eating broccoli leaves just like you would any other firm, sturdy leafy green like collards or kale.

Remove the stem

I clip the leaves with a small knife or scissors, then I bring them back to the kitchen and strip the midrib/stem out of each leaf.

Cutting into Chiffonade/shredding

Broccoli leaves can make a good raw salad. One of my favorite ways to do it is to cut them into fine shreds, or chiffonade.

Steaming

Steaming is another good thing to do with broccoli leaves. Remove the ribs, then cut into pieces and steam for 30 seconds, or until they’re tender and taste good to you. I like mine to be fresh and vibrant green—not overcooked.

Using leaves as a wrapper (Dolmas)

Just like grape leaves, broccoli leaves can be blanched and stuffed. They’re more tender than grape leaves and can be used to make large rolls.

Freeze-Wilting

If you don’t want to blanch the greens, you can also put them in a freezer just until they’re firm, then thaw, which does the same thing as blanching without using excess water (you don’t get the salt either though, so the shelf life will only be a few days).The recipe below recently got a shout out from one of my favorite podcasts,

Deer food plots=more than animal food

If you have some extra land, and, say, have hunters that rent from you, or like to hunt yourself, consider planting a deer food plot with a brassica seed blend. These commonly contain varieties of leaf broccoli, as well as delicious turnips, radishes, and mustard greens youThis is a great way to have a “low-maintenace” garden to produce extra food, and, if you eat meat or want to attract hunters to lease your land, rest assured, the deer will come. You’ll be shocked how much food one bag of seed mix can produce for you and wild animals. Brassica Deer Food Plot Seed Blend (Includes leaf broccoli)

Further Reading

Spigariello / Leaf Broccoli SeedsCalabrese Broccoli Seeds (Broccoli leaves shown in this post)

Looking for broccoli leaves recipes?

We’ve listed a couple of tasty, printable broccoli leaves recipes later in this post. But, we’ve also included tips on how to harvest the leaves if you’re growing your own vegetables. That’s because so many of you are growing your own food. Plus, we’ve added a number of links to help you grow abundant foods no matter how big or small your garden.And, if you really want to learn to grow from seed to fork, join our online gardening school for many more lessons.

How to Harvest axillary (side) florets:

The side florets on broccoli can form rapidly, so check your plants frequently, and trim out the side florets when they are no more than about 4-5″ long. These aren’t likely to get big like the central crown, so the idea is to harvest many of them while they are small. In fact, tiny florets are great to toss into our broccoli leaf recipes too.Like the central crown, the axillary florets will get tough and unpalatable if you let them grow long and open their flowers. But, the pollinators will love them.

How to Harvest broccoli leaves:

When you harvest your big, central broccoli crown, you’ll probably end up cutting out a few leaves as well. Don’t toss them into the compost pile. Instead, remove the mid-rib and add them to your broccoli dish. Once the central crown is removed from the plant, you can begin trimming out a few leaves from the plant on a regular basis. As you would with Kale, remove the lower leaves on the plant first, and only take a few from each plant at a time — especially if you are encouraging the plant to grow more axillary florets. They’ll need those leaves to photosynthesize, which is how they feed themselves.Once you have harvested all the side florets from your broccoli plant (at a certain point the plant will either run out of side buds for production or just wear out from having everything taken from it), go ahead and trim out the rest of the leaves as well as the central stalk, much of which is truly delicious as well — just chop off the toughest portions and peel off the exterior layer to reveal the crunchy sweetness of the central stem.