Photos & text by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
I know this is going to sound crazy. But I have two new favorite vegetables — and one of them is broccoli leaves. Even my kids like them.
This all started when I read Community Kitchen Garden Coordinator Brian Vick’s blog post about how we were donating many broccoli and cauliflower greens to FeedMore in addition to the broccoli. He noted that they were tender and tasty. The next time I bought broccoli at the farmers market, I made sure I got a big head with lots of leaves still on. I found that I liked them just as much as the head, maybe more! My kids & husband loved them too. Now, we can get twice as many servings of vegetables for our money and we don’t have to throw anything away. That first blog post that sparked my curiosity said: “Most people have never seen a complete cauliflower plant.” I would argue most people have never seen a complete broccoli plant either. I won’t name names, but a certain adult member of my family who worked in the produce aisle during high school and college tried to tell me there was something wrong with a broccoli plant with so many leaves! I checked with my farmer, just to make sure my husband really was wrong before I told him he was WAY wrong. It’s perfectly normal for broccoli to have tons of leaves! And lucky for us, tasty too.
My other new favorite vegetable? Vitamin green — sold by Crumptown Farm at the South of the James Winter Market at Patrick Henry Elementary School. Yes — really and truly that is what it is called! But that is a story for another time.
In case you need to know how to cook the broccoli leaves, it’s easy. Just wash and chop them (stem and all). I chop the greens and put them in two batches. The batch with the stems go in the pan first, to cook longer. Heat an iron skillet (or other pan) ’til it’s hot. Add canola oil. Then add the stem-greens. Stir, when they’ve wilted a bit, add the other greens on top. Add some sea salt. Turn so the greens on the top make it to the bottom and vise versa. As soon as they are bright green (about 3 minutes) pull them out of the pan onto a serving dish. You are done! For a variation you can use a few tablespoons of Soyaki instead of salt, and steam with the lid on for 30 seconds or so, until the leaves turn bright green. Careful not to overcook them!