Broccoli crowns are a staple when it comes to dinner veggies; and even for those who are not crazy about broccoli, the scope of it's health benefits is well known. But it's not common knowledge that the rest of the enormous and bushy plant is also edible, nutrient dense, and delicious - likely because the stalks and leaves aren't found in pretty packaging in the produce section of your every day grocery store. Unfortunately, this means unless you grow your own, or purchase from a local farmer, it's difficult to find these gems. Here are four reasons you should be eating broccoli greens, and suggestions on how to prepare them.
1. Broccoli leaves are their own super food.
Broccoli leaves hold their own among super foods like kale, chard, and other dark, leafy greens. Like the florets, they are loaded with sought after vitamins A, C, and K as well as fiber, thiamine, niacin, calcium, iron, and potassium. Additionally, they have higher essential nutrients than broccoli florets including more carotenoids, chlorophylls, vitamins E an K, calcium, manganese, and antioxidants.
2. Small carbon footprint.
Broccoli florets make up a relatively small portion of the broccoli plant as a whole (approximately 10-15%), and on occasion, the broccoli plant fails to even produce a flower. If the leaves, an edible, flavorful and nutrient dense broccoli byproduct, were harvested and used for food production, the inputs of the single crop would have a greater value by increasing the total yield of the plant by nearly 50%, and the waste from the crop would be significantly reduced.
Broccoli plants continue to grow once the crown has been harvested, so the tender outer leaves can be taken as the plant grows taller, much like kale plants. These plants can continue to grow through the entire season, and sometimes even keep producing for a second year.
3. They are sweeter, less bitter, and more tender than other dark leafy greens in their category.
In texture and appearance, broccoli leaves fall in line with collard greens an kale, but broccoli leaves tend to be less bitter and more tender than both. They faintly taste like broccoli florets with a mild and earthy flavor, and they also sweeten up as they're cooked.
4. Their uses are virtually limitless.
Broccoli leaves are easy to incorporate into a home cooked meal. Use them as you would other leafy greens like spinach, kale, or chard. They are well suited for juicing given their mild flavor, and high water content. Add the smaller and more tender raw leaves to salads, or use longer but smaller stemmed leaves as wraps. Love kale chips? Give it a go with broccoli leaves - you'll be pleasantly surprised with the similarity! Broccoli leaves also don't wilt down as much as most other leafy greens, so they provide great bulk to soups an stews. Braise them alongside meats or root vegetables to soak up all the juices.