… 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.
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.
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!).