There are more ways to eat a vegetable than you realize. Many of the vegetables you eat regularly have leaves and stems that are completely edible — parts of the vegetable you have probably been throwing away. Add these leaves to your vegetable dish for flavor or garnish, as well as the health benefits you will get from eating them.
Many of the beans you regularly eat by themselves or in soups, salads and chili have leaves that are completely edible. When growing your own lima beans, snap beans or green beans, pick a few of the leaves during harvest time and add them to your vegetable dishes. The vegetable leaves may be eaten when cooked or fresh, with cooked leaves being the preferred method for taste.
Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower
When you buy a head of cauliflower at the supermarket, you may notice that it comes with leaves attached to it. These dark green leaves are edible and may be cooked alongside your cauliflower dish. Other vegetables in your garden that you most likely eat regularly include broccoli and carrots. If you often steam these three vegetables for a side dish at mealtimes, include a few of their dark leaves for added vitamins, protein and fiber.
Eggplant, Pumpkin, Sweet Potatoes
When harvesting your eggplant, pumpkin and sweet potatoes in the fall, pay close attention to the leaves on these vegetables. These leaves are edible and may be eaten cooked or fresh, or used as a garnish. Add them to casseroles, soups, salads and other dishes for some added protein.
Some of the lesser-known vegetables also have leaves that are edible. These include okra, radishes, kohlrabi, beets and turnips. If you have these vegetables in your garden or purchase them from a supermarket with the leaves still intact, use the leaves in your side or main dishes.
Young leaves generally provide the most flavor for your soups, salads and other vegetable dishes. Pick young leaves one-by-one and cook them according to your preference. The young leaves of certain vegetables are the only tasty ones, such as from sweet corn, white onions, Southern peas and squash. Other leaves from these vegetables are edible but will not taste very good.
References and ResourcesStarting a Garden: Edible Plants
Aggie Horticulture; Secondary Edible Parts of Vegetables; M. J. Stephens
Gardens Ablaze: Readers' Questions -- Edibles