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How to Harvest & Eat Your Broccoli Leaves Recipe

June 17, 2014
As the first day of summer approaches, cool season crops like lettuce, baby carrots, and broccoli ripen for harvest, but are you missing out on eating all their parts because, maybe, you need a broccoli leaves recipe and harvesting help?

How to Maximize your broccoli crop + recipe

Broccoli plants offer more than just crowns like this to eat!

Yep, broccoli leaves are as edible as the leaves of their nutrient-packed cousin kale!

When the central head of a broccoli crown is still tightly in bud and tucked several inches below the tops of the highest leaves, it’s time to take your first harvest. If you wait longer and the crown flowers begin to open, your harvest may be tougher and less flavorful, so don’t keep waiting to see what else might happen.

(You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors & doesn’t cost you anything extra. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)


How to Harvest the Central Crown:

Young broccoli crown

Young Broccoli crown forming on a plant. It’ll be ready to cut out soon!

Using a sharp knife, slice out that central flower head (or crown), and leave the rest of the plant in place. Smaller broccoli florets will likely form along the intact stalk, arising from buds at the base of the remaining leaves. In fact, you may see some of them already starting to form when you cut out the big, central crown.

How to Harvest axillary (side) florets:

The side florets on broccoli can form rapidly, so check your plants frequently, and trim out the side florets when they are no more than about 4-5″ long. These aren’t likely to get big like the central crown, so the idea is to harvest many of them while they are small.

Broccoli axillary florets

After the top crown has been removed, side florets like these will form quickly.

Like the central crown, the axillary florets will get tough and unpalatable if you let them grow long and open their flowers.

How to Harvest broccoli leaves:

When you harvest your big, central broccoli crown, you’ll probably end up cutting out a few leaves as well. Don’t toss them into the compost pile. Instead, remove the mid-rib and add them to your broccoli dish. Once the central crown is removed from the plant, you can begin trimming out a few leaves from the plant on a regular basis. As you would with Kale, remove the lower leaves on the plant first, and only take a few from each plant at a time — especially if you are encouraging the plant to grow more axillary florets. They’ll need those leaves to photosynthesize, which is how they feed themselves.

How to cut out a broccoli leaf with a paring knife.

Clip lower leaves on your broccoli plant first, removing them where they meet the stem by cutting or snapping. Don’t tear the main stalk!

Once you have harvested all the side florets from your broccoli plant (at a certain point the plant will either run out of side buds for production or just wear out from having everything taken from it), go ahead and trim out the rest of the leaves as well as the central stalk, much of which is truly delicious as well — just chop off the toughest portions and peel off the exterior layer to reveal the crunchy sweetness of the central stem.

(You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)

The roots, leaf midribs, and the toughest portions of the stalk are food for your compost heap.

Want more info on growing broccoli? Read on!

Small Space Broccoli Growing Tips & Tricks

Cabbage Butterfly Pest Egg Photo ID

How to Use broccoli leaves in the kitchen
**Now with two recipes**:

There are so many ways you can eat your broccoli leaves. Remove the mid-rib, tear or chop the supple leaves, and mix them into a saute. Toss them in hearty salads where you might otherwise rely on kale. Or, blend them into a smoothie for a nutrient-rich, not-t00-sweet smoothie.

Β  Sweet Broccoli Leaf, Fruit, Fat & Protein SmoothiePrint Print

You’ll need a high powered blender to fully macerate all the whole food ingredients in this tasty smoothie. Depending on how much you thin the final blend, this should make a one-pint-glass serving. Check out how many servings of fruits and vegetables you get!

Ingredients:

3 Large broccoli leaves, mid-rib removed

1 Peach, pitted

4-6 Strawberries, hulled

1/2 banana

3-4 ice cubes

1/2 cup water (or more ice cubes if you like a really frosty smoothie)

1 T. hemp seeds

1 T. coconut butter or whole fat coconut milk

1/4 lime, peeled

1″ chunk peeled, fresh ginger

Add ingredients to high powered blender. Start on low speed and work up to high speed, mashing things down as needed. Let run about 1-2 minutes to fully liquify everything. (If your mixture is thicker than you prefer, add a bit more water or coconut milk to thin.)

September 2018 Update
This year we had several crops of broccoli, with loads of delicious stems & heads. But, we also had loads of leaves. Some went to the chickens; they love broccoli. Much went to making tasty broccoli leaf chips. Much like ever-popular kale chips, these are super easy to make from the gleanings of your broccoli crop!

Dried Broccoli leaf chips

Ingredients:

Large broccoli leaves, mid-rib removed

granulated or powdered garlic

sea salt

olive oil

Tear broccoli leaves into chip sized pieces. Toss with a splash of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt & a generous sprinkling of granulated or powdered garlic.

Spread seasoned leaves in single layers on dehydrator trays.

Place into a dehydrator (on lowest setting if that’s an option) for about an hour. Check. Extend time as needed until chips are fully dried and crispy.

Serve immediately or place into a vacuum seal canister where they can be stored for later.

]Want more recipes & growing info? Growing, Cooking & Eating Broccoli with Recipe!

38 Comments

  1. Elly Francisco says:

    Love your site. I broke my ankle the other day and yesterday my sister came to help me. I sent her to the garden to pick any chard that was ready (I won’t be going to the garden for weeks). She came back with an arm full of kale, all excited. I was very curious, as I had not grown kale. She had picked broccoli leaves. After a good laugh and a google search, I found your site. She made a delicious!!! broccoli, chard, and onion quiche. I can’t wait to see what other nutritious leaves I have been giving to the goats. πŸ˜‰

  2. Thanks for the note Elly. I’m so sorry to hear about your ankle, but it sounds like it has come with some tiny food knowledge blessings too. Heal fast!

  3. W Hamley says:

    Looked up broccoli flowers. I was away came home my broccoli looked like my flowers. Good to know it is good to eat.
    My cauliflower is turning blue is this normal? I am roasting a head today.

  4. W – not sure why your broccoli is turning blue. Some varieties are purple. Perhaps you have one of those growing? Enjoy & thanks for writing in!

  5. dstengel says:

    My broccoli survived the winter and has now stopped producing and flowered. I am going to harvest the whole plant and wanted to use as much of the plant as possible. Your website has given me exaclty what I was looking for, thank you. I was wondering if you could use the tender part of the stalk to make broccoli slaw?

  6. dstengel – that tender stem should make a great slaw. Enjoy & glad to help!

  7. Brenda says:

    Why is my broccoli spicy? Is this normal?

  8. Brenda – no idea what you mean by spicy or why broccoli would be spicy. Can you describe in more detail?

  9. ctyres says:

    Only had a few a few small heads or flowerets due to very hot weather. Kept watering the plants which are container grown and have been harvesting leaves several times a week for two months with many more weeks expected.
    Add them to a very green salad of red leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, basil and all othe the toppings for a great chef salad!!!

  10. Ctyres – what a great way to make the most of your harvest!

  11. susanna ristau says:

    Ctyres- Another month-still harvesting small broccoli leaves for salads, sandwiches, and stir fry. Large leaves are also good in stirfry! Expect another month or more of leaf harvest.

  12. mike r. says:

    can i boil the leaves like turnips or collards?

  13. You could boil them, but a light sauce is really all they should need. Enjoy Mike!

  14. Fergie Ferguson says:

    Tremendous information. I often poke around idly for little pieces of information about the plants in my kitchen garden. Usually it takes a while to find the precise info I want. But you provided IT ALL. When and how to harvest for best results. It was all there in a short article and even had a few helpful photos.
    Thanks for doing this and I will bookmark your page as a good source of clear complete information.

  15. We planted 6 broccoli, 2 in raised beds and 4 in pots due to room. The two in the beds are gigantic!!! One has even toppeled over but one, the biggest one has the smallest heat. I’m wondering since the leaves are so gigantic can I cut a few leaves off to give it more sun. Also one of the broccoli in the pots has a head that is pretty loose. really not tight at all plus it already has little floretts growing on the stalk. Is all ok?

  16. Lori, thanks for writing in. Sounds like your potted broccoli may be stressed. If the heads are formed and getting loose, they may be getting ready to flower. Harvest and eat them! You might be able to thin some leaves from the crowded plants as well. Sight unseen, it’s hard to know for certain. Good luck!

  17. Laurie Ronan says:

    Great information. Ive eaten my brocolli but ive been waiting to throw away main stalk because Ive been hoping littlr babies would grow. They havent yet but now I know enough to keep this sucker going!

  18. Glad we could help Laurie!

  19. CJHattrup says:

    We are having a wonderful crop of broccoli leaves, no heads , but great leaves. What should we do next year to improve production of heads. I am not sure what type we planted, the soil has compost and great drainage. Sunny till just after 1:00 then shade the rest of day. I thought this location would help keep it from bolting as we had that happen in a different location on a previous attempt of full sun. thanks for any suggestions.

  20. Site unseen its hard to know the best solution. Sometimes when they’re planted too close together, broccoli can struggle to create good heads. Too, are you getting a full 6-8 hours of sun? What time do they get the sun in the morning before they lose it in the afternoon? That could be the challenge as well. Good luck!

  21. sonia cabrera says:

    Haha, this is great! I live in the city.
    I love sprouting, and usually thwack the final sprouts that get stuck along with all the hulls in the strainer, when I am rinsing, on the edge of a planter.
    So now I have 18″ tall leafy broccoli stalks growing out of several. But since I only have NE exposure, they don’t get enough sun to develop florets- none that I can see, and they are at least 70 days old.
    It’s great to know that I can eat the whole plant, and not just the bud or fruit.
    Great website, true to name.

  22. Glad this helped you make the most of your broccoli Sonia!

  23. Robyn says:

    I used blanched leaves to make lamb dolmades..have to wait a few months for grape vine to produce!!

  24. That’s a great use for those big leaves Robyn. Thanks for sharing!

  25. JAMES PATTEN says:

    i have 6 brocollii plants with alot of leaves

    HOW CAN THE LEAVES BE PRESERVED ?

    FROZEN CANNED? aNY SUGGESTIONS?

  26. How about making them into a kimchi, kraut? Chopped and blanched, you could freeze them for soups too.

  27. carrick says:

    how long does a broccoli plant survives after harvest what is the life span of a broccoli plant

  28. Carrick, broccoli is generally consider an annual vegetable plant. That being said, even after the center crown is removed, the plant may continue to live for quite a long time (depending on where it is planted/what the climate is and how it is cared for, etc…). But, don’t expect it to produce lots of big crowns over time. Enjoy!

  29. Kenneth Wayne Brooks says:

    Good info. My 6 broccoli plants are in a large plastic bin. The leaves are larger than any I’ve ever grown. I’m using bagged container soil. Since they got so big, I’m having to water more. Can’t wait to see the heads. I also have mustard and spinach so will try the mix in a salad. Mustard gives a sort of horseradish taste so go easy with that. Thanks again for all the great info.
    FYI/my dad used to have Mom sautee the lettuce in bacon grease and he added sugar. He lived from 1913 to 1992 so he was old school!

  30. Thanks for sharing Kenneth. Love those mustards!

  31. Jeanie Siggaard says:

    Snipping leaves from my young broccoli this morning instead of kale, which is planted next to it in a straw bale, is one of the best mistakes I’ve made. So happy to learn I can add broccoli to what I call my double harvest garden along with beets, carrots and sweet potatoes. Discovering your website made the mistake a double harvest as well. Thanks for the info.

  32. Jeanie, Isn’t it great when you make a happy mistake? Enjoy your double-harvest delights & thanks for sharing your story! πŸ™‚

  33. after finding this post I went out and snipped off a broccoli leaf. We tried it just simply steamed with supper as we wanted to know how it was. Well we will be using the leaves now to steam/saute, freeze them for our morning smoothies. We have likely left them a little too long to add to salads but they will be great cooked

    I no longer care that my broccoli are not developing heads!!

  34. Anita,

    Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you like the leaves. Enjoy!

  35. Dianna says:

    So glad I found your site – I have a row of broccoli that’s going to finish up the conventional harvest soon and was wondering if I could harvest the big, beautiful leaves as well, instead of tossing them to the chickens. Now I know I can harvest the leaves and stalks as well, and the chickens can just go scratch. LOL

    Since I like to make kraut, this was in the back of my mind and now I’m going to just do it, thanks to you. I’ll harvest all the largest, lower leaves and proceed as with cabbage.

  36. Dianna, Thanks for sharing. Let us know how your broccoli leaf kraut turns out. Sounds delicious! My hens BEG for the leaves. I give them the worst of them (slug-ridden outer ones), but save the rest for our kitchen. Seems like a fair trade for eggs πŸ™‚

  37. […] to this article, not only can you eat your broccoli leaves, but they are as nutritious as […]

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(You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors but don’t cost you anything extra. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)