Broccoli Leaves Are Edible

Broccoli leaves are edible... for humans too

… As my veggie-loving pug will tell you!

Most people don’t realize that broccoli leaves are just as edible as the broccoli head itself. And I can’t blame them, since store-bought broccoli comes in a neat little package with only a few tiny leaves stuck to the head.

Unless you grow them yourself, you never see the massive greens that broccoli heads spring from. On my Romanesco broccoli plant, which grows bigger than your everyday broccoli, the mature leaves get up to 2 feet long with hefty ribs and stems. They look intimidating, but they cook down deliciously just like any other green.

Mature broccoli plant

Once the greens reach 4 to 6 inches long, you can start to harvest a couple of leaves every week while the plant is growing, and then harvest the whole plant after it flowers. A plant produces one main head of broccoli as its flower, and sometimes a couple of smaller heads after.

Broccoli leaves taste faintly of broccoli — earthy and mild. They can be steamed, sauteed and even grilled in place of other greens, such as collards, cabbage and kale. If you pick the younger leaves off the plant, they’re also tender enough to toss into a salad. Medium leaves are the perfect size and thickness to stuff with veggies and meat. Large leaves work best in soups and stews, where they’ll wilt but still have shape. I typically don’t eat the stems on larger leaves, since I find them too fibrous.

My pug enjoying broccoli greens

It’s a shame we don’t see broccoli leaves sold in the store — and why don’t we? Broccoli leaves are richer in beta-carotene than the florets, and contain other healthful phytonutrients that aren’t found in the stems and florets.

It seems such a waste for commercial farmers to harvest the heads and discard the perfectly good leaves — which makes all the more reason to grow your own (or make friends with someone who does!).

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April 29 2012      75 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Verduras

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  • http://www.friv3.co/ friv 3

    Cute and funny too. I wish I had a dog that fishermen

  • http://www.y8friv.asia/ Friv 4

    i am glad with your post. in my country the broccoli plants have the nice leaves and the flower which is named after its shape has the green or white color depend on the kind of broccoli

  • http://www.kimskitchensink.com/ Kim’s Kitchen Sink

    I found this post through a google search, and I”m glad I did! Our broccoli plants have big, beautiful leaves, but no florets yet, and I was hoping to be able to do something with the leaves! Thanks for the in-depth notes and photos!

    • Rajesh kashyap

      your welcome

  • cynthia

    In New York I’ve seen broccoli leaves sold in supermarkets as “Broccoli Rabbi” and I’ve cooked them as greens and they are yummy!!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Broccoli rabe (rapini) is not actually broccoli (go figure!) but it is part of the same family. It doesn’t form a head, but is instead grown for the leaves and buds… and I think it’s delicious too! The broccoli leaves I’m referring to here are the huge outer leaves of the broccoli plant (not just the small ones that sometimes cover the head).

  • joyroxborough@yahoo.com

    I looked up this info because we are growing broccoli in garden now and I certainly did not know the plant grew so big with so many leaves. and yes, we thought it wud be good to eat the leaves but were worried it would affect the growth of the heads if we cut them now! Thanks.

  • Pingback: Romanesco Broccoli: A Fibonacci Fractal | Garden Betty

  • Jgwoodworks

    Thank you. I’m growing Broccoli and it is very obvious, they look tasty. So go onto the internet and ask. Time to try some.

    Thanks Again

  • http://www.geaux2pt.com MoniquePT

    I’m in New Orleans and my grocery sells the greens.  Looking forward to trying them for the first time.

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Ohhh, lucky you! I’ve never seen a store around here carry that!

  • Randerson271

    Can you eat the broccoli as it’s flowering ?

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      If the plant is bolting (producing a flower stalk) then it’s no good. It will usually be too bitter and/or tough.

  • Gregory Bryant

    Just got some broccoli from a C.S.A. and didn’t know about the greens.   Thanks!  Looking forward to impersonating your pug. 

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      LOL!

  • Jimmy

    I live in Georgia, USA and plant broccoli in the spring.  This year I harvested the heads and left the plants.  Now, in November, the plants are showing new small heads with young stems.  Are these stems, including the leaves, edible?  Jimmy in Georgia 

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Yes they are! Harvest when they’re young for a more tender texture.

  • Swaller1969

    Thanks Betty, I just ate my first broccoli leaves. I cooked them just like collards and they were very good. Sarah in Florida

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      I love making them that way too!

  • Guy Santangelo

    I live in Florida, this year in my fall garden I have beautiful broccoli plants full of leaves but no flowers. I planted from seeds in early September, what is the cause of the lack of flowers.

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Flowers don’t form until the broccoli is ready to bolt – after you harvest the head!

      Depending on the variety you planted, it can take up to two months for the plant to produce its first head. It is slow growing, especially in warmer weather. (It does best in cool weather.)

  • SS

    Could you please tell me how long it will take brocolli, romanesco and cauliflower plants to flower? I planted small seedlings more than a month ago and while there are tons of leaves sprouting and flourishing, i do not see any flowers. Thanks!

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Broccoli only flowers at the end of its life, when it’s bolting.

      It can take up to two months for the plant to produce its first head, so stay patient! :-)

  • Swaller1969

    Thank you Betty, I too have good -looking greens from my broccoli, and did not want to waste them. I live in Florida and my crop this year is doing fine. Glad I found you – Sarah

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Broccoli leaves are like a little bonus before the “real” harvest!

  • Steve

    Thanks for this entry on your site. My wife and I have been eating (actually, drinking) raw broccoli leaves in our blender drinks (a mix of mostly raw vegetables and some fruits) for some time.  We find the broccoli leaves to be most pleasant in taste and texture for such drinks, and of course the pure raw nutrition is rather astounding.  We blend the whole leaves, including the ribs.  Next year, we are going to plant many more broccoli seeds and will start using them for drinks much sooner.  If we get any heads, fine…but if not, equally delicious.

  • Cat Downing

    My husband and I live in Maine and take much pleasure in growing our own veggies in the backyard. I am originally from Brooklyn, NY… born and raised in New York City. I moved to Maine to attend college on a full scholarship. After graduating I met my soulmate here in Maine and decided to make this country setting my new home. Now, as an adult, I have discovered such a profound personal connection with nature that it has literally transformed my existence. One of our most abundant crop is our broccoli plants… Which have yet to flower. However, I have believed for some time that the leaves look just as appetizing as the Kale and Swiss chard growing in our garden. I ate a piece of broccoli leaf earlier and was amazed at how delicious it was and quite confused as to why I had never heard of anyone cooking or eating broccoli leaves

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      You and me both! I think people are so used to buying their produce from the store that things like broccoli leaves, carrot tops, radish tops, etc. aren’t considered edible because they’re often sold without the greens (or the greens look very unappetizing). I’d be interested in asking a farmer why broccoli leaves aren’t harvested for sale as well.

  • Bgoettle

    Maybe a strange question… are pole bean leaves edible?

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Yes, bean leaves are edible. I personally like fava leaf salads.

  • David Egesdal

    Thanks, I will be adding them to my salad throughout the fall then. 
    http://www.creationcarvings.com

  • Mikealando

    Thanks. I’d wondered 

  • Honualani.com

    Great article we keep broccoli in the garden for months here on Kauai, it just keeps producing lots of florets and loads of delicious leaves!

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  • Glenda

    Love your pug! I have a pug named Pug, and he’ll eat my entire garden if I don’t gate it off! Check out my post of 2 years ago  http://foodgardenrecipes.blogspot.com/2010/07/pug-loves-tomatoes-too.html

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      My broccoli-loving pug also likes tomatoes. Last summer I caught her sneaking into the tomato bed and munching on the low-hanging cherry toms! She’ll also tag along behind me when I harvest and try to nibble on the radishes and greens spilling out of the basket. Luckily, she gets full/bored quick. ;-)

      Your pug is SO CUTE!

      • Jenna

        When my pugs graze on the little cherry tomatoes, it eliminates the burn spots in the yard wherever they whizz. I actually get greener grass! Healthy and a landscaping bonus!

        • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

          Who knew?!

  • Lindsey

    What kind of broccoli is in the picture shown here? I had what I thought was a cauliflower plant growing in my raised beds. The leaves looked just like this, but when the plant flowered it looked like a green/purple/yellow broccoli romanesco or cauliflower. It was the strangest thing I have ever seen. Roasted it tonight with some olive oil and bread crumbs and it was deeelicious. Sauteed the greens as well. Wish I could find my original seed pack so I could do it again…hmmm…

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      It’s a Romanesco broccoli. One of my Romanesco heads last year had a little purple in it too.

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