Making a meal of ‘waste’ vegetable leaves

Broccoli leaves and stem can be eaten as well as the florets.
Picture: Getty Images

Broccoli leaves and stem can be eaten as well as the florets. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Can you eat broccoli leaves?

That’s the question posed by reader Reg Coleman, who is looking for a way to use the leaves on his home-grown plants, other than just adding them to the compost heap, writes thrifty living columnist Sheena Grant.

“One only finds the florets in shops but the plants in my garden have an abundance of leaves,” says Reg. “I’ve tried boiling a few but the taste was not very appetising. Are they safe to cook and eat?”

It’s a timely question, considering the ongoing publicity around food waste.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about signing up for the Food Savvy Challenge, part of a campaign being run by Suffolk and Norfolk councils along with environmental charity Hubbub to cut the huge amount of edible food we all throw out.

The challenge, open to residents cross the two counties, takes four weeks to complete and includes regular email updates packed with tips and useful links to help participants make the most of their food. The advice is to try as many ideas as possible during the challenge to reduce your food waste and save money.

Along with planning meals, keeping an eye on use-by dates, freezing and storing food correctly, a large part of the challenge is about using leftovers and not throwing out things that can be eaten.

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Broccoli leaves definitely fall into that category, along with a host of other ‘waste’ vegetable parts, including broccoli ‘stems’, cauliflower leaves, carrot and beetroot tops and many vegetable peelings.

I’ve previously made carrot-top pesto, potato peeling crisps and used broccoli stem in soups, although I have to admit, it was a little fibrous. Beetroot leaves and stems are apparently iron-rich and are said to be delicious cooked or shredded raw and added to coleslaw while cauliflower leaves can be cooked in the same way as spinach, kale or chard, stir-fried or tossed with olive oil and sea salt and roasted.

And, in answer to Reg’s question, it appears broccoli leaves, part of the brassica family, are definitely edible too.

In fact, they are said to contain higher amounts of some vitamins than the florets.

Because the leaves can be a little coarse, some people advise removing the central stem and roughly chopping the leaves, which can then be steamed or added to soups, stir fries and pies. Gently sauté with oil and garlic to soften or, if you’re taste buds are fairly robust, shred finely and add to a salad. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could add the stems to juicer or smoothie maker.

If readers have any other suggestions for using ‘waste’ vegetable parts, email

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