Harvest Recipes

Whole Plant, Whole Food – Broccoli

I love the idea of whole foods. Unprocessed, unrefined foods that nourish our bodies. Especially when it comes to things we grow. But, when we talk about whole foods, we really are only talking about using the whole food we find in the grocery store, not the whole food, like broccoli, that grows in the garden. For that, we need to think about the Whole Plant—the leaves, the stem, the fruit, the seed, the root. Not always, but often those parts offer as much benefit to us as what we are used to using.

In this series of Whole Food—Whole Plant, I’m going to be sharing ways to use the various parts of the plants we grow  in ways that you may have not thought about. I want you broaden your horizons when it comes to gardening and eating. This is going to be fun!

whole broccoli plant

Right now, my garden has an abundance of Broccoli—from Di Cecci to Waltham. They are big, beautiful plants that take up a lot of space, so it’s important to me that I get a lot of bang for my buck. When I first started growing broccoli, I was so excited to see that wonderful crown forming in the center of those stunning gray-green leaves. Then I harvested it. Delicious, no doubt, but other than a few florets sprouting from the stalk throughout the next month, I was pretty disappointed in this one-hit wonder. I mean, do you realize how much effort it takes to garden? It seemed such a shame to have spent months growing this and then popping most of it into the compost pile when it was finished.

Well, not anymore!

use broccoli leaves

Broccoli fills our plates all season. Just like kale, the leaves are quite edible. And usually very large. You can certainly grow broccoli, like Spigarello, specifically for its gorgeous, curling leaves, but standard broccoli, grown for it’s crown, allows you two options. And according to Dr. Mercola …

Broccoli leaves provide about 90 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement, compared to 3 percent in the florets.

Here are some rules for harvesting broccoli through the season:

  1. Larger leaves for wraps are tougher and will need to be blanched, and the stem shaved thinner.
  2. Remember to leave some leaves for the plant to continue to grow and produce a crown.
  3. Let some of the flowers bloom. The bees are crazy for them, and then you can get some wonderful seeds for sprouting or growing next year! Quadruple Impact!

Try these two recipes and then add to your whole broccoli repertoire!

Potato and Broccoli Leaf Hash

broccoli leaf hash



Broccoli Leaf Enchiladas

finished broccoli leaf enchilada

  • Large broccoli leaves
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (use broth for more flavor)
  • 1 cup roasted sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped green chiles
  • Monterey Jack cheese (2 cups grated or as much as you like)
  • Enchilada sauce (Trader Joes is my favorite)
  • Sour cream and avocado for garnish

This video shows how to roll the broccoli leaves, sorry it’s a little foggy (must be from messy fingers)

Now let’s start using the Whole Plant!

Try broccoli leaves in soups, salads, dips, lasagna, any recipe that calls for greens is fair game in my opinion. Let me know how YOU use this Whole Plant.


About the author


Welcome to my blog! I’m Cricket (yes, my parents named me that!) and I’m a natural homesteader. Growing up in rural Idaho with a garden, a horse, and lots of canned food, I like to bring those sensibilities to my suburban home in Phoenix, Arizona. Add a little dose of cottage garden flavor and permaculture tendencies, and you’ll see why GardenVariety.Life is a reflection of everything I do.

I truly enjoy sharing the skills that promote a meaningful and practical connection to our gardens and environment. Because so many residents of the metro phoenix area are transplants, I find that the area’s unique desert climate is often misunderstood and underestimated in terms of what is possible. That’s where the fun begins. Arizona is a burgeoning permaculture haven with homesteading written all over it, and there is nothing I enjoy more than encouraging others to jump in and give it a try.


  • What a great blog! And you’re spot on about the resources it takes to raise a broccoli head. We love the stalks too, but I’ve never considered eating the leaves! I’m going to make both of your recipes… gorgeous pictures and great instructions. Thank you for taking the time to do this and share it with others.

    • Thanks Sherri. I’d love to hear how it goes. The next thing I’m going to make with them is a type of lasagna roll. Similar to an enchilada, but with ricotta, mozzarella, sautéd veggies, and sauce. Guess I’m feeling kind of hungry right now.

  • Looking forward to trying these recipes. Was looking at my plants this morning and thinking how little return for such a big plant. But have a question. When you say use outside leaves first I am confused as my broccoli leaves seem to grow up and down the stem. I do not want my first try at eating the leaf to be an old tough one. Could you explain a bit more. Maybe a video of picking the leaves? I am so dense sometimes. THanks.

    • Victoria. I had to think about that and go out to look at my broccoli. I generally pick my lettuce and kale leaves from the bottom (or outside) up. When I wrote this post I was remembering doing that with the broccoli too. After reading your question and retracing my broccoli-picking steps, I decided that I will amend my advice on that because it actually depends on what you are using the leaves for. If you want to use it for rolls you may want to pick the large ones (you will need to shave the stem so it is thinner or cut it out completely.) If you want to sauté them, you may want to pick several smaller ones. The larger are older and tougher, but if you blanch them before using as wraps it softens them.
      I hope that helped.

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