The past few years have taught us what Earthlings really want to know, and we are pleased to be spreading the word that cauliflower leaves are edible! In that spirit, we’d like to tell you that broccoli leaves are edible, too, and explain a slightly easier method of preparation.
Our local organic CSA farm has had a good crop of broccoli this year, and they give it to us with leaves intact. Fresh broccoli sold in supermarkets often has had its leaves trimmed, at least the larger ones. What do you suppose happens to them? I hope they don’t just get thrown away, because broccoli leaves are highly nutritious, with a slightly different nutrient profile than broccoli florets or stalks. They’re particularly high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that our bodies convert into Vitamin A. I wasn’t able to find a nutrient analysis for cooked broccoli leaves, but a one-ounce serving of raw leaves contains 43% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C, 5% of folate, 3% of potassium and manganese, and some Omega-3 fatty acids–and less than 8 calories!
Broccoli leaves could be substituted for spinach or kale in many raw or cooked recipes. When we cut up broccoli from our farm to steam as a side dish or use in High-Protein Pasta Salad or Broccoli Casserole, we typically include the leaves, but we think they don’t taste as good in those contexts as the other parts of the broccoli do. Roasted leaves, though, are an addictive snack food or yummy side dish! They have the crispy crunch of thin potato chips and a tasty, toasty flavor that is quite different from the flavor of steamed broccoli.
Here are Daniel’s instructions for roasting all parts of the broccoli, as he did earlier this week:
- Cut up the broccoli and divide it into trees (florets), circles (cross-sections of stalk–cut off the bottom end and any other very tough parts), and leaves. If you have big leaves with tough stems, remove those stems–you might want to roast them alongside the circles to make chewy pieces, or just compost them. Cut the leaves into pieces no more than 2 inches wide and long.
- Use pans that have at least a shallow edge all the way around. It’s best to have a separate pan or section of pan (depending on your total volume of broccoli) for leaves because they cook faster than trees or circles.
- Pour some olive oil on the pan and tilt so that it covers the whole bottom of the pan. Place broccoli in a single layer in the pan. (If it’s piled up, it takes longer to cook, and the leaves don’t get as crispy.)
- Drizzle more oil on top of the broccoli. Sprinkle on any desired seasoning–it’s easiest to use just a bit of salt, but you might prefer pepper, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, some kind of herbs, curry powder, and/or nutritional yeast flakes. (Alternatively, skip seasoning at this point and let people add their choice of seasoning at the table.)
- Use a spatula or large spoon to toss the broccoli so it gets more evenly coated with oil.
- Bake. If you are baking something else at any temperature above 350F degrees (we were baking fish at 375), just stick the broccoli in with it. If you’re baking it by itself, 425F is a better temperature. A small batch can be baked in a toaster-oven.
- Check every 10 minutes. Leaves are done when they are curling up and getting crisp. Trees and circles are done when fork-poking shows that they have reached your preferred tenderness.
Both of our kids ate more broccoli than they otherwise might have because they had 3 different shapes to sample and compare! We left the remaining crispy leaves out on the counter all evening for ongoing snacking.
Visit the Healthy Living Link Party for more great healthy ideas!