Eating It All: From Stalk to Leaves

One of the advantages to shopping at farmers' markets is that the produce isn't stripped of its delicious leaves. Take the broccoli pictured above, for example. You'd be hard pressed to find this much stalk with the leaves attached in most grocery store produce departments. This is also true for many other vegetables, including beets, turnips, celery, radishes, and cauliflower. And yet the leaves are often just as edible and delicious and nutritious as the vegetable itself!

I'm not sure why many grocery stores chop off vegetable leaves and tops. Perhaps because the leaves tend to wilt, therefore make it difficult to display for too long on grocery store shelves. Or maybe it has to do with cooking trends, and people cooking less with beet tops and radish leaves. Thank goodness that's changing!

In the case of this broccoli, the stalk is delicious and should not be rejected for the more popular florets. Go for as much stalk as possible when purchasing your broccoli. I love snacking on them raw, just peel and slice and you have a sweet, crunchy treat. No dip necessary! The leaves are delicious, too, and can be treated much like kale. They're also good raw, but perhaps a little strong for some, so try adding them to a stir fry

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My new favorite invention is to bake them like you would for kale chips. Just cut off the leaves, toss with a little olive oil and sea salt and roast in a 375 degree oven (I did the tray above in my toaster oven) until they start to crisp. Start checking them after 4 or 5 minutes or when you start to hear popping sounds. Watch carefully as they can get too brown rather quickly (a little brown around the edges is good, though). You may have to remove the smaller leaves first and return the pan to the oven for the larger leaves to finish up. The leaves are crunchy and sweet, with an occasional hit of broccoli-esque bitter. Delicious!

Related: How to Cook Broccoli

(Images: Dana Velden)