Word is spreading fast about the deliciousness, as well as nutritional value, of broccoli leaves. Those who are interested in their health and foodies alike are raving about this superfood. Although, not many people are even aware that you can actually consume a broccoli leaf.
Of course, everyone is familiar with a head of broccoli, which is the flowering part of the plant that many consume. This is what we see when we go to the grocery store looking for broccoli. But, what about the rest of the broccoli plant?
Most people do not know that the broccoli plant can actually get quite large and that you can even eat the leaves of the brocolli plant. No, not the tiny leaves that are stuck to the head of broccoli from the supermarket. These are large leaves that spring up around the head of broccoli.
If you have not been to a farmer’s market, it is unlikely that you have seen broccoli in this form. Veggie lovers can rechoice, as you can harvest these leaves and serve them up. You will learn how you can enjoy almost every part of the broccoli plant.
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The Growth of The Broccoli Plant
If you do not grow broccoli plants yourself or have never been to a farmer’s market, then it is unlikely that you have seen the leaves of the broccoli plant. While some heads of broccoli still are sold with their leaves at the store, these leaves are smaller than their other leaves.
So, how big can the leaves of the broccoli plant get? Well, this can depend on the exact type of broccoli that is being grown. However, there are many variations of broccoli plants that spring up large leaves, sometimes even up to two feet long.
The broccoli head, which is the portion of the plant that we typically eat, is very small in comparison. The broccoli head comes up in the center of the plant and is then harvested. It is also known as a floret or a crown.
The goal is to wait for this part of the plant to come up. Unfortunately, it sometimes never does. Even still, a broccoli plant only produces one viable head for its entire life. However, there will sometimes be much smaller sprouts off the main plant.
These sprouts that shoot off the main plant will always be much smaller than the much larger center head of broccoli. However, these smaller heads are typically still used and are marketed as baby broccoli. They are tiny bite sized pieces of broccoli.
The stalk of the broccoli plant is also edible and is consumed all around the world, either raw or cooked. The stalk is what runs from the base of the plant and then into the ground. It would then be harvested with the rest of the plant.
Broccoli plants are not considered easy to grow or recommended for beginners, as they can be quite challenging. One reason for this is because broccoli plants actually take up a lot of room in the garden. If planted by other crops, they can start to take over.
They also need to be watered regularly and quite often. In order to thrive properly, you will also want to consider the use of fertilizer. However, the benefits of broccoli leaves make them a great addition to any garden.
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What are The Health Benefits of Broccoli?
Broccoli has long been named one of the best foods that you can eat for its nutritional value. This is primarily due to how much vitamins and minerals it contains, including all your daily value needs for Vitamin C in just one serving of broccoli.
However, broccoli also contains nice helpings of vitamin B, iron, calcium, and even fiber. Broccoli leaves contain even higher amounts of vitamins than broccoli florets. Consuming broccoli can help someone get and maintain a well balanced diet.
So, why are broccoli leaves known as a superfood over the broccoli head? This is because broccoli leaves are more vitamin and nutrient dense than the head of the broccoli, containing high levels of vitamin A and phytonutrients.
Broccoli is also a very versatile vegetable. It can be utilized in many different recipes and dishes. The broccoli leaves are no exception and can be substituted into your favorite meals to help give you a vitamin boost.
Broccoli leaves have an extensive list of health benefits. This includes helping your body to detox, as well as helping to improve the health of your skin. Since broccoli contains a high amount of fiber, this can also help a person’s digestive tract.
While broccoli and broccoli leaves have a long list of health benefits, eating healthy foods like broccoli in general can help your overall health and allow your body to fight inflammation. Eating healthily can also help improve your heart health.
How to Harvest Broccoli Leaves
Growing your own broccoli can be a fun and unique experience. Growing your own broccoli also gives you the opportunity to harvest the broccoli leaves. Broccoli leaves do not need to be harvested all at once.
In fact, it is better to harvest the broccoli leaves as the plant is growing. Typically, you will be able to begin harvesting your broccoli leaves once they get around four inches long. Then, you will be able to harvest new leaves weekly.
A good time stamp to know when to start harvesting the leaves is when the brown of the broccoli is still in bud form. If you allow the leaves to grow too long at first, you will notice that the leaves will have less flavor and may even be more challenging to eat.
Do not be afraid of taking your first clippings too early. You can generally never be too early picking your first leaves, as it will not hurt your plant. If anything, it will encourage new growth for the next harvest.
When you harvest, you will want to make sure that you are only harvesting the outermost leaves. Smaller leaves will have a different flavor profile than larger leaves. But, you will eventually be able to figure out which sized leaves best fit your taste.
Once the plant develops a crown, this means that the broccoli head is ready to be picked. You can go ahead then and harvest the broccoli head to use. However, you can still continue to harvest the broccoli leaves.
That is right. The broccoli leaves will continue to grow for long after the broccoli head has been harvested. So, you can continue to harvest the leaves for as long as you want. You may even be able to keep the broccoli growing year round, depending on the climate you live in.
Broccoli leaves are considered to be a cut and then come again crop. What this means is that you can harvest the broccoli leaves and then come back again to harvest more. This means the plant will keep producing fresh and tasty leaves for you to eat.
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How to Cook Broccoli Leaves
It is one thing to harvest broccoli leaves, it is another thing to know how to cook and eat them. Thankfully, there are many different dishes that you can enjoy broccoli leaves in and many different recipes that you can use them for.
This is great because if you have a broccoli plant, you will know just how quickly they begin producing leaves. Pretty soon, you will start having more leaves than you know what to do with. That is why it is so wasteful to just throw out this very viable portion of the plant, as it produces so much food.
Keep in mind that broccoli leaves may appear to look like other vegetables, but they have a very unique flavor profile. The flavor of the broccoli leaves tastes a little bit like a broccoli floret and has an earthy and bitter taste.
Broccoli leaves are actually similarly shaped to cabbage leaves when they are growing. After they have been harvested, they more so resemble collard greens. For this reason, it is common that broccoli leaves are mixed with collard greens or kale.
A majority of those that cook with broccoli leaves generally prefer to harvest them when they are smaller, as this renders them tastier and more manageable than when they are larger and more tough. So, you will want to harvest the younger leaves of the plant when you are making a salad.
If you are making a dish that requires a more mild flavor, you may want to consider leaves that are a bit larger. This is typically when someone is wanting to cook with different vegetables or a cut of meat.
However, you can still use the largest leaves of the plants if you so choose. The largest leaves are generally recommended to be put into soups. This is because soups usually cook for a long time and this can help to cook down the flavor of the larger leaf.
Cooking with larger leaves also requires a bit more care. After you have plucked the leaves and harvested the larger leaves, you will want to remove as much of the stem as you can bofore cooking. This is because the stem is one of the tougher parts.
This is because the larger leaves are generally more tough and do not usually have as much flavor. However, longer cooking times can allow these leaves to soak up more flavor from the spices that are in the soup and even become more tender.
While broccoli leaves can be mixed with these other greens, they can also be replaced with these greens in salads or dishes if you prefer more of a slightly sweet green in lue. Do not worry if you have to utilize some trial and error to find where you like broccoli leaves the most.
When cooking with broccoli leaves, keep in mind that their flavor profile changes while you cook them. When they are heated up, they will become a little bit sweeter and they will generally keep their size. This unlike other types of greens that generally start to wilt after being cooked.
You can also make broccoli chips out of broccoli leaves, which are similar to kale chips. You would just simply bake the broccoli leaves. Broccoli leaves can also be blended up into delicious smoothies.
Other Leaves That You Can Eat
Broccoli leaves are not the only leaves that you may not have known that you can eat. There are actually many different types of leaves that are edible and these leaves can be used similarly to broccoli leaves.
The leaves of the cauliflower plant and brussel sprout leaves are both edible and can taste delicious. However, these leaves are often discarded. However, these leaves can be added to meals for extra nutritional value.
Enjoying Broccoli Leaves
Instead of tossing broccoli leaves into the garbage or using them in a compost pile, you might want to try eating them instead. They can be a delicious addition to any meal and they will even help your overall health.
There is no reason to harvest only the broccoli heads and then discard the leaves, especially when the leaves are so nutritional. So, this gives you a great reason to get gardening and grow your own broccoli leaves.