By Becca Newell
We’ve been told since childhood to “eat our greens.” And, while we have come to love our leafy super foods, after years of rotating through spinach, kale, and chard, our meals are getting a little redundant. So, we turned to some unlikely foliage for inspiration.
Yikes! Don’t just chop those leaves off your celery stalks and discard them! Instead, separate the delicate greens from the stems and put them into rotation in your recipes as a flavoring agent. While the leaves carry a similar taste to the stalk, the darker leaves—spotted on the outer stalks—are a little thicker and have a bitter bite, while the lighter leaves that grow toward the center, have a lighter taste and texture. Add one variety—or a mixture—to salads, homemade pesto, salsa, or follow our Managing Editor’s lead and sprinkle freshly-picked center stalk leaves into homemade Bolognese sauce as it simmers!
If you’ve ever grown broccoli in your own garden, you’ll know large, kale-like leaves accompany their stalks. Not to be confused with the wispy fronds typically found on broccoli crowns, these leafy greens can be prepared in the same vein as the “super greens” they resemble. With a taste ranging between slightly sweet and almost bitter, broccoli leaves are a great addition to soups, salads, and sandwiches—or as a standalone side sautéed with a little garlic and red pepper flakes.
A tree native to northwestern India, moringa oleifera
has feathery branches with small, oval leaves, dubbed a “superfood” and packed with vitamins and minerals. Studies suggest the plant’s extract possesses antioxidant, analgesic, tissue protective, and antiulcer properties. When eaten raw, the taste is comparable to watercress or radicchio, however, when cooked, the leaves taste like slightly nuttier spinach. While fresh leaves are more difficult to come across—although online resources suggest searching through Asian markets—there are dried or powdered varieties available to add in soups or steep in hot water for tea.
Though regarded as an uninvited lawn guest, the dandelion isn’t just a pesky weed. The flowering plant’s nutrient-dense leaves—packed with vitamins and minerals, like iron and potassium—add a peppery flavor to salads and sandwiches. If the raw taste is a little too bitter, try sautéing the leaves to soften the bite. Additionally, the dried leaves are a common ingredient in herbal teas. In the medical field, the leaves are used as a diuretic, helping to increase the amount of fluid removed from the body (as urine). Like other herbal supplements, dandelion is considered safe, but use precaution and discuss first with your doctor.
Though they’re not technically a leafy green, these golden-hued flowers, typically from zucchini (but found on other summer squashes), are another example of a vegetable part often discarded, yet deliciously edible. Available from late spring through early fall, the soft blossoms—also known as zucchini flowers—aren’t known for their long shelf-life, so if you pick them up at a farmers’ market or grocery store, be sure to eat them within a day or so. With their mild squash-like taste, blossoms are extremely versatile when it comes to cooking. Recipes vary from deep-frying to pickling to baking and beyond.
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