Broccoli is a versatile, delicious vegetable packed with nutrients and goodness but did you know you can also eat broccoli leaves and flowers? When you grow your own broccoli you might realize what a small portion of the plant we traditionally eat. It seems such a waste to throw all those big, lush broccoli leaves and gorgeous flowers away. Well, the good news is, you don’t need to throw them away because they’re edible. Read on to find out more about eating broccoli leaves and broccoli flowers.
Can You Eat Broccoli Leaves?
Yes! You can definitely eat broccoli leaves. You can start eating the leaves long before the broccoli head is ready to harvest. The younger the leaves are the sweeter and more tender they are.
Broccoli leaves taste slightly bitter, especially older leaves. They have an earthy flavor and only a mild broccoli taste.
So, even if you don’t like broccoli you may like the leaves. They can be used to replace cabbage, chard, kale and collard greens in most recipes.
Can You Eat Broccoli Leaves Raw?
Younger broccoli leaves are sweet enough to add raw to salads and smoothies while older leaves are better cooked as this brings out the sweetness in them.
Broccoli leaves are packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, potassium and fiber. Raw leaves pack more of a nutrient punch and their earthy, mild flavor makes them great in slaws and salads.
How to Harvest Broccoli Leaves
As the head of the broccoli is the main vegetable, we do not want to damage it or the plant before it’s ready to be harvested. However, you can start picking leaves off the plant when the head is just a small ball at the bottom of the leaf cluster.
There are a few things you can do to ensure your broccoli plant is not stressed too badly as you harvest leaves before the head is ready.
Pick leaves in the early morning or evening. This allows the plant time to recover in the coolness.
Never pick more than a third of the leaves at a time.
Use a sharp knife to cut the leaves off cleanly just above where they attach to the main stem. Jagged edges are more prone to disease getting in.
Once you have harvested the broccoli head don’t remove the whole plant. Broccoli will continue to send up side shoots which can be cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw in salads.
How to Prepare Broccoli Leaves for Eating
Don’t wash the broccoli leaves until you are ready to eat or cook them.
Store the broccoli leaves in single layers between damp paper towels in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge. They should last 3 to 4 days.
If you are growing your own broccoli, it is always best to leave the leaves on the plant until you are ready to use them.
When you are ready to use the leaves, wash them in cool water. You can add a little salt to the water to ensure any little bugs hiding out in the folds will be removed.
Cut the mid-rib out and remove the stem. You can then chop the leaves finely or pull them apart roughly depending on what you want to do with them.
How to Cook Broccoli Leaves
Cooking broccoli leaves is similar to cooking spinach or kale. They can be sautéed in a little butter and garlic or onion, or steamed if you are looking for a fat-free option.
Don’t overcook them. They wilt quickly and do not need hours of boiling.
Young broccoli leaves can replace lettuce on a sandwich. They can be shredded finely and added to stir-fries or salads and slaws. They add an earthy flavor to soups and stews.
For a decadent treat, cover shredded broccoli leaves with cheese sauce and bake in the oven for half an hour.
Broccoli Leaf Recipes
Quick Skillet Dinner with Broccoli Leaves – from Mom to Mom Nutrition. This recipe uses sausages, broccoli leaves, and other vegetables to create a healthy, balanced all in one pan dinner. You can add a side of rice or pasta for the hungrier tummies.
Sautéed Broccoli Greens – from Primal Palate. A quick and easy recipe that calls for bacon grease but this can be substituted with any fat such as butter, olive oil or coconut oil if you prefer. But if you like bacon I’d recommend sticking with the bacon grease as it adds a really delicious punch to the greens.
Cream of Broccoli Leaf Soup – from The House and Homestead. This decadent soup is the perfect starter to any winter dinner or can be served with crusty bread as a wholesome lunch. It tastes very similar to cream of broccoli soup and, as the soup is run through a blender, it is an excellent way to use up older broccoli leaves.
Broccoli Leaves and Spaghetti – from Sabrina’s Organizing. This simple yet delicious dish is super quick to throw together and uses only a few ingredients. It can be eaten as a light lunch or offered as a side.
Broccoli Leaf Frittata – from Shape. For a tasty and healthy breakfast idea, you might like to give this recipe a try. Combining cheese, olives, tomatoes, and herbs, this frittata takes broccoli leaves to a new level.
Crispy Broccoli Chips Recipe – from Food 52. Turn those broccoli leaves into a delicious snack. Anything with the words ‘chips’ makes most people excited. Now you can have a healthier version using the greens from your garden.
Can You Eat Broccoli Flowers?
Yes! Broccoli flowers are edible and delicious. If you have missed harvest time and your broccoli has begun to flower don’t fret.
As temperatures heat up or the season comes to an end the broccoli heads bolt, sending up stalks topped with yellow or white flowers.
The broccoli head that we are used to eating is actually a cluster of tight buds. If the plant is stressed in any way it will bolt prematurely without making this head.
Instead, it goes into survival mode and concentrates its last energy on making flowers and then seeds.
Factors that can cause early bolting are: lack of water, lack of nutrients, high temperatures, or very cold temperatures.
The broccoli plant then sends up stalks with little white or yellow flowers that will turn to seed once pollinated.
These broccoli flowers can be eaten fully opened or as buds. Fully open flowers will wilt quickly when cooked while buds will give you a slight crunch.
The broccoli flowers taste sweet and have a mild broccoli flavor with a hint of pepperiness.
The nutritional value of a plant decreases after flowering so broccoli flowers are not as full of nutrients as the broccoli head but are delicious in their own right.
Can You Eat Broccoli Flowers Raw?
Raw broccoli flowers are a perfect addition to salads as they offer a slight peppery flavor and add a touch of color and beauty to the salad. Raw flowers can be used as an edible garnish on the top of potato salads and slaws.
How to Cook Broccoli flowers
Broccoli flowers are probably at their best raw but you can cook them. Throw them into stir-fries at the last minute to add color and flavor. They can be sautéed in a little butter. Younger flowers work better for this as they retain a slightly crunchy texture.
Broccoli Flower Recipes
Broccoli Flower Salad – from the Food Channel. This recipe is simple and delicious. It makes a great side to a summer lunch.
Recipe for Broccoli Flower Salad – from One Creative Mommy. A heartier salad, this recipe includes bacon and cheese and makes a perfect meal.
Broccoli Flower Soup – from Cooks.Com. This soup is wholesome, delicious, and a must-try. Combined with crusty bread it will satisfy even the hungriest members of your family.
Flowering Broccoli & Stale Bread Frittata – from Not Eating Out In New York. A clever way to use up stale bread and flowering broccoli. This recipe turns ingredients that might otherwise be wasted, into a delicious meal.
Lemony Broccoli Leaves and Flowers with Parmesan Vinaigrette from Adventure Kitchen. A lovely and light dish that works beautifully as a side or a light main meal.
As you can see, both broccoli leaves and broccoli flowers are edible and delicious. If you’re growing your own broccoli, now you can make the most of your garden by harvesting even more of the plant and turning them into tasty meals at home. And if you’re not growing broccoli, flowers may be harder to come by but you can look out for fresh broccoli leaves from specialty grocers and farmers’ markets.