Broccoli leaves are edible... for humans too
Garden of Eatin', Vegetables, You Can Eat That?!

Broccoli Leaves Are Edible

… 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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  • Chuck

    Look up Kai-Lan or Gai-Lan, this is broccoli cultivated for the leaves.

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  • Ashley Kania

    We are growing lot’s of broccolini (sp?) this season, and was wondering if anyone knows whether their leaves will be just as edible?

    What a good dog your companion is, getting their veggies in <3 ^__^

    • Yes, the leaves of all brassicas (broccolini included) are edible!

  • Thanks! I can’t believe I didn’t know this and even had to google it! I Lv your pooch! I’m going right out and get a leaf for my dog! I was munching on a leaf the other day and said how sweet and plait-able it was! YES!!! The co-op @ the very least should have Broccoli Leaves as a for-sale item. Geezers!

    • I just asked a farmer this tonight. She thinks that most farmers aren’t aware that broccoli leaves (among many other plant parts) can be eaten, or they don’t know how to convey to their customers how to eat/cook them!

  • I’ve never seen broccoli leaves in the store, so you’re very lucky to have that!

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  • alawrence89

    Haha what an adorable dog! It’s surprising people don’t know this, I absolutely love sauteing my broccoli leaves or adding them to soups.

    • I have a stack of broccoli leaves in the fridge right now that I’m using as green wraps. They’re great for that!

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  • N

    They do it’s called kale. Kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all the same play just bred to have certain characteristics (such as leave, buds, shoots) expressed. They all stem from the wild mustard plant.

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  • psc0104

    I live in South Carolina and they sell Broccoli leaves in small bundles at our Bi-Lo…..I put them in my green smoothie! They are wonderful, will have to cook some as well!

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  • patty

    I bet you could season these and dehydrate them, like making kale chips? I love kale chips, might have to try broccoli (leaf) chips!

    • I’m sure you can, though I haven’t tried it myself. Let me know how it turns out!

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  • Felicity

    Thanks for the info. Is this the same for Brocollini leaves?

    • Yes, this is true for all members of the Brassicaceae family.

  • I made some today. I added onion, garlic, kale, a little green pepper and cooked them on low in vegetable broth for about 3 hours. They were delicious! Tastes much like Collard greens.

    • That’s one of my favorite ways to cook broccoli greens too.

  • Melissa Matt Butcher

    I like to slice the stalks and use in vegetable, Beef, and Chicken Soups

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  • Danielle

    Seems like a great way to keep the Romanesco under control since it gets so big! Thanks for the info 🙂

  • Wow, I’d always been told the leaves were toxic and not to eat them!

    • You can eat the large outer leaves from all brassicas, including cabbage (not just the heads) and brussels sprouts (not just the sprouts)… which is wonderful because it’s like getting a “bonus” crop before you can harvest the more common parts of the plant.

  • Darcy

    If you peel the thick stalk of its fibrous outer layer, it’s also incredibly delicious, even raw (juicy and sweet). I suspect the same is true of the ribs, but I don’t know how much would be left after peeling. 😉

    • I’ve never tried eating the stalk… interesting!

      • MAMPHL

        I puree the stalk hearts and use as soup base…absolutely amazing for cream of broccoli!

        • I actually just used the broccoli leaves in a classic broccoli and cheddar soup last week. (No stems or florets.) It was delicious!

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  • Riet

    My friend who is from Zambia doesn’t eat de brocolli flower, only the leaves! When I found out she was throwing the brocolli head out, no doubt I demanded to give it to me.
    So now I want to grow some brocolli AND eat the leaves as well.

    • What a great example of different cultures seeing their food differently!

  • SteveUK

    Just picked a whole load of purple sprouting broccoli and will definitely be using some of the leaves ! 🙂

  • rumtea

    I used the leaves to feed my worm bin 😀

  • Roland Prochaska

    I would like to thank you, for finding this information. I am glad that somebody put this information on your page, it has been really helpful to me. It will give my children at the Jeevarathni Foundation something new to eat on their plate. Once again thank you for your work. Sincerely Roland

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  • Anastasia

    My neighbor is growing broccoli and I’ve been trimming the leaves every day for juicing, it’s been a great way to use them.

    Is there a limit to how many of the leaves I can pick and yet not mess up the growth of the broccoli? I would hate to have my juicing habit ruin her potential crop of broccoli.

    • Hard to say a “limit” since it depends on how large the plant is, etc. But like all plants, the broccoli gets it energy from the leaves, so I wouldn’t harvest more than a quarter of its leaves each week (and make sure you’re only harvesting the older outer growth).

    • Nora

      I would love the answer to that question…. I want some leaves before the broccoli is ready, but my husband is afraid it will stress the plant.. Any thoughts

      • Typically I don’t take more than a quarter of the leaves (only the older outer leaves) every 1-2 weeks while the heads are forming. Once you’ve harvested the head, you can keep harvesting leaves as needed and they will regrow (like lettuce). I’ve actually been harvesting leaves from my broccoli plants that are 1 1/2 years old. The plants themselves are massive and continue to branch out, but the smaller leaves are tender and delicious. I feed the larger leaves to my chickens. They also make an excellent blended broccoli cheese soup.

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  • StephanieAndDavid

    I love your pug! That’s beautiful dog. If broccoli greens are good enough for the puggy, it’s good enough for me. (I’m cooking some now. My kale was destroyed by the evil rabbits. If I had a pug instead of a bulldog, the rabbits would have been afraid to come into the garden.

    • Not sure about rabbits, but my pug certainly isn’t fending the garden from our evil raccoons and squirrels!

  • geordief

    Hi

    I wonder in general are there any parts of vegetables that are not to be eaten.Obviously potato and tomato leaves can be poisonous (I think) but are these the exception rather that the rule?

    Also can I ask you how you know that the “Broccoli leaves are richer in beta-carotene than the florets” ? Did you find that information somewhere where it gives lots of other similar information that might apply to other vegetables -or would that be a snippet of information that you remembered from acumulated experience.
    I saw on a TV programme that carrots are a bit of an exception to the norm in that their nutritional best bits lie right the way through the root rather than is often the case just below the skin (as with potatoes)

    • All vegetables contain toxins (as part of their natural defenses) but our bodies flush out certain toxins better than others. The real question is how much of it you’re eating and your current state of health. Tomato leaves are not poisonous, as I’ve written about here: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/08/tomato-leaves-the-toxic-myth/

      You might also be interested in a similar post I did on carrot tops: http://www.gardenbetty.com/2013/07/are-carrot-tops-toxic-the-short-answer-no/

      That fact about broccoli leaves came up in my research about the subject. If you’d like to learn more about this kind of thing, I recommend reading Jo Robinson’s book “Eating on the Wild Side.” I personally haven’t read it yet (on my list!) but have heard rave reviews from respected colleagues in the natural foods sector.

      • geordief

        thanks
        Could I ask you about why iceberg lettuce is comparatively poor nutritionally compared to other lettuces (as you write elsewhere) ?
        Does it follow that blanched vegetables in general would be similarly lacking in nutrition ?
        I always thought it was just supermarket bought Icebergs that tended to be poor but you seem to suggest it is the variety itself .
        What about the hearts of lettuces in general ? Does the lack of light make them also less nutritious?
        I was also interested in your comments regarding bitter tasting vegetables .Is there really no connection between an “unpleasant” taste and the nutritional worth.
        In my mind there was an argument that my body was “trying to tell me something” -am I just too naive?
        I did pick and cook the broccoli leaves based on the reassurance in this article and my partner was actually fooled into thinking they were kale leaves.
        So it is good to be able to use them to supplement the kale and the spinach (and everyything else) which are slowing down a lot now-rather than just composting them .

        • In general, darker vegetables are higher in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

          “Eating on the Wild Side” lists many different vegetables by their nutritional content and explains why some varieties are more healthful than others – all based on years of science-based research. It’ll answer more of your questions than I can.

          • geordief

            thanks again.I see she also has a website that I will look at first.It is eatwild.com .

  • averagejoe

    I know they’re only little bitty things, but it would really make this website more interesting if you could do your gardening with your tits out post some pics of you, as such, amongst the web pages!

  • Viv Sluys

    I grow my own broccoli and I am happy to know that the leaves are good for eating since there is so much more leaf than flower on my plants. Are they anything like broccoli rabe? Could I use them as a substitute in a recipe?

    • The stems on mature broccoli leaves are more fibrous than on broccoli rabe, but taste-wise they’re pretty similar. I like to cook my broccoli leaves the same way I cook collard greens since the leaves are so huge.

      • Viv Sluys

        I cooked some up last night and they were so delicious!

  • Ed Jones

    I just bought some broccoli with leaves attached from the nearest farmers market here in Northeast Ohio. The flower head and numerous leaves are a work of art. I’m blanching and freezing some as well as eating some right away. Thanks for the website, Garden Betty! Yeah for the farmers and markets who sell the broccoli with leaves! And Betty, you gotta love that pug.

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  • Eric

    Every time I catch my chickens in the garden, I find them in a circle around my broccoli plants, as if they’re worshiping some great blue deity. They are, in reality, chowing down. As a reward for returning peacefully to their run and coop, I gave them a big handful of the bottom leaves that were touching the dirt. They were pleased!

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  • jumbybird

    I agree that discarding the leaves is a huge waste.

  • PatJ

    Just picked some leaves for my husband to saute – yes he loves to cook. I agree it is such a shame they are not sold in the stores and yes we grow our own which is so good to cook your own food. We are having confit of duck with broccoli leaves and own grown potatoes.

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

  • 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

  • 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!!

    • 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.

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  • 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

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

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

  • Randerson271

    Can you eat the broccoli as it’s flowering ?

    • 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. 

  • 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 

    • 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

    • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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

    • 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

    • 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?

    • 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

    • 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!

  • 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…

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

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