Whenever my friend from Kenya comes over she reminds me of how many vegetables I have in my garden. I see broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage that isn’t big enough to harvest and eat. But she sees a garden full of vegetables that can be eaten that day.
I’ve been trying to follow her lead and cook some of the leaves while the heads continue to grow. You can’t harvest all the leaves or you’ll stunt the plant’s growth but you can certainly harvest some.
There are quite a lot of plants that have edible leaves in addition to the primary part we normally eat, the leaves are called the secondary edible part. Plants that have edible leaves include, snap beans, lima beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, okra, kohlrabi, peas, sweet potatoes, radish, and squash. However, not all plants have edible leaves, for instance tomatoes, peppers and potatoes have toxic leaves so if you’re unsure double check.
I’ve created a handy printout for you to keep in your gardening notebook or in your kitchen that lists the plants with edible leaves. Just fill in the form below and it will be emailed to you.
How to cook broccoli and cauliflower leaves
I harvest about one large leaf per person. They don’t cook down as much as spinach so you won’t need to harvest as much. We like to use olive oil and add onion, grated carrots and tomatoes to the pan. And then saute for about 3-5 minutes. It doesn’t take long.
Some leaves will taste different than their primary harvested part and some will taste similar to it. Also, different varieties of the same plant can taste different. So, if you cook some leaves and it’s not to your liking, try a different one. Also, the flavor will change a bit the longer you cook them. Consider these “free” food, so play around with them to figure out which ones your family likes and how they like them.
To help you get started on using secondary edible parts, I’ve included a few recipes and tips below.
Do you eat the secondary parts of plants? Share your tips in the comments. (If you get this post via email you’ll need to click over to leave your comment.)