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Eat your organic broccoli, leaves, stems and all

Eat your organic broccoli, leaves, stems and all

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If you’re growing your own organic broccoli, be sure to make use of the leaves as well. They make delicious and nutritious eating, says Phil Dudman.

It’s one of those things that you wonder why you never thought of it yourself. The first time I became aware of the culinary value of broccoli leaves was when a Balinese friend came to visit. Here I was proudly showing off my bumper harvest of florets, when she exclaimed, ‘Yes, but look at all those leaves. Why aren’t you eating them too?’

Well of course! They are part of the brassica family after all, and like most of that tribe, the leaves are very edible, and quite delicious. The texture is much like kale, a little more coarse than your average cabbage, which just means they hold together well when cooking. Just remove the central stem and roughly chop the leaves before steaming, tossing into soups, stir fries, pies and tarts. One of my favourite ways is to soften the leaves in a frying pan with garlic, chilli and olive olive oil – quick, simple and delicious! You can even shred the leaves more finely and include them in a salad.

Don’t waste the stems either. Sure, they are a bit tough to munch on raw, but if you quickly remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, chop them into bite sized lengths and blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, you have a very tasty and tender vegetable, reminiscent of asparagus.

I like to start my day with a fresh organic vegetable juice from my garden. Brassica juice is packed with goodness, so I like to grab a few broccoli leaves to push through the juicer along with carrot, celery, lemon, beetroot, ginger… whatever I’ve got. The broccoli gives the tonic a real boost!

All those years of mindlessly feeding the leaves to the worms in my compost bin! I can’t believe I had been denying myself of such a good feed, along with all those valuable vitamins and minerals that brassicas are famous for.

Give it a try, but don’t go stripping your entire plants in one go.  I just grab a few of the lower leaves – effectively giving the crop a clean-up – making sure I leave plenty of foliage behind for the plants to photosynthesis.

Get the latest issue of Organic Gardener magazine and discover more tips and ideas for growing success in your backyard!