Beet and turnip greens don’t need to go to waste as we harvest the roots. We can toss them into salads or steam them. But what about the leaves of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi? Why not incorporate them into our diet? After all, we’ve spent so much effort making excellent soil that it seems a shame to just compost all those leaves. Besides, experts tell us we should eat more greens.
Indeed, these leaves are edible. Because they arise from the same type of plant, they can all be eaten. Cruciferous plants grown on fully mineralized soil contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals, sometimes more than the part usually eaten.
For example, one cup of broccoli leaves contain 100 per cent of the RDA (recommended daily amount) of vitamin C and also provide fibre, calcium, iron, carotene and more.
These leaves boost the immune system, help the body detox and prevent diseases like cancer, heart ailments and inflammation. They also help improve skin and eye health. In fact, broccoli leaves are more nutritious than the florets, containing higher levels of beta carotene, vitamin A and phytonutrients.
Kohlrabi leaves have twice as much vitamin C as the bulb and significantly more magnesium; cauliflower leaves are a good source of fibre, vitamin A, folate, calcium, potassium and selenium, all of which boost the immune systems. And we all know about kale.
Broccoli leaves are best harvested before the florets begin to unfurl, but don’t remove more than one third of broccoli leaves at a time if you want to keep harvesting the florets. Picking the leaves encourages new growth and continued harvests. Kohlrabi leaves should be removed when the bulb is harvested so they don’t suck more nutrients from the tuber: chop the small leaves up for salads and use the larger ones for steaming, stir fries, soups and stews.
Try brushing leaves of cruciferous plants with oil and roast for a side dish, or substitute them for cabbage, collards and kale in recipes.
When harvesting any of these leaves, if you can’t use them right away they can be stored in the fridge in a bag lined with wet cloths, for up to three days. Given how much more nutritious these leaves are than the parts we normally eat, we would be foolish to overlook these rarely used dynamos of the plant world.
I’m going to dry out any decent leaves that I don’t cook up and grind them into flakes to add to soups in the winter.
Here’s a nice recipe for a green smoothie that can incorporate cruciferous leaves:
½ ripe avocado
½ frozen banana
1 cup nut milk or water
½ cup frozen or fresh berries
2 cups chopped greens
Optional: 1 or two pitted Medjool dates.
Scoop out the avocado flesh, discarding the pit and add it to the blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend till smooth. You might need a spoon to eat this, or add more nut milk or water to make a drink.