Garden of Eatin' / Flowers & Herbs / Vegetables / You Can Eat That?!

Edible Kale Flower Buds

Edible kale raab

We’re often told that once a brassica bolts, that signals the end of its life. But to me, those first few kale buds (also known as kale raab) are the start of a new life—in the form of edible flowers that are surprisingly tender and sweet (especially if you’ve had a very cold season, which brings out their sweetness more).

Raab (derived from rapa, Italian for turnip) is just another word for the flowering tops of plants from the brassica family, such as kale, broccoli, mustard greens, and Chinese cabbage.

You might be more familiar with broccoli raab, which is often sold in supermarkets as bundles of stems with tight clusters of buds, some with tiny yellow blossoms. Gailan (also called Chinese broccoli) is enjoyed for these little buds as well.

Edible mustard buds
Edible brassica flower buds
Flowering tops on mizuna

Being a cold-hardy biennial, kale (and other brassicas) survives winters in most climates. It spends its first season developing a strong root system and healthy head of leaves.

From early spring to early summer as the weather warms, kale flower buds appear after the plant has completed its life cycle. Before it sets seed, it sends up a flower stalk and the buds can (and should) be harvested for one final hurrah before the plant expires. You can even pinch the buds back to encourage more flower heads to form in the last couple weeks.

I use both the buds and the flowers, which need no more than a simple dressing to bring out their flavor: some olive oil and garlic, sauteed with a squeeze of lemon. Toss the kale raab with a warm brown rice salad and a handful of wilted greens, add it to a stir-fry, or serve it as a side dish.

I used to sigh when I looked out my window at the end of the season and faced a bed of flowering kale, but now all I see is a delicious new crop! Harvesting kale buds is a great way to get more out of your garden by doing less (after all, it means growing more food without planting more plants) so don’t be afraid to try it next time.

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Avatar
    March 23, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you for the great info! I’m a newbie and my kale is flowering. What should I do if I want to harvest seeds from it for another crop? I’ve been so proud of my kale and am sad to see it go. 🙁

  • Avatar
    Carolyn Valdez
    July 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Delicious! I eat many kids of flower buds from my garden. But I’ve always wondered (and maybe you can answer this question for me): are there any vegetables with flowers that you shouldn’t eat? (Rhubarb you’re not supposed to eat the leaves, but other than that?)

    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      I’m not aware of any flowers that you shouldn’t eat (at least, not in what I grow at home)… but I typically only like flowers from my herbs (since they taste just like the herb leaves… onions and chives are my favorite) or sweeter flowers, like those from brassicas.

      As for leaves that you shouldn’t eat, rhubarb is the only one I know of (the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, but as with most things, you’d have to eat a ton of rhubarb leaves to feel sick). I eat lots of “unconventional” leaves like carrot tops, fava bean leaves, radish leaves, pea shoots, young cucumber leaves, and I also steep tomato leaves in my tomato sauces for added flavor.

  • Avatar
    Cary Bradley
    July 8, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Yumm! Love them too!


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