So you think you know vegetables... You fill your plate with roots, stalks, leaves, and buds. But there are parts of these plants -- some of which may be in your refrigerator at this very moment -- that you're probably missing out on.
Don't toss these eight scrumptious treats in the trash (or compost) before giving them a try on your plate!
1. Beet Greens
Beets grow under ground, and the spots are marked by beautiful green leaves sticking out from the root. When you buy beets with a big handful of leaves on top, don't even think about tossing them!
Beet greens are similar to chard. They're great sliced and sauteed with garlic in olive oil. They can also be paired with the beet roots themselves, for example: Roasted Beet Salad With Beet Greens And Feta.
2. Broccoli Leaves & Stalks
The parts of the broccoli most folks eat is called broccoliflorettes, which are cut from broccoli crowns.
These parts grow surrounded by a handful of leaves and at the top of a broad stalk.
Broccoli leaves can get a bit tough when the broccoli is mature, but can be cooked up and eaten at any point in the plant's growth. They're also incredibly healthy. This post from the Food Network highlights how they can be braised, stir-fried, steamed, and more.
Broccoli stalks shouldn't be ignored either. I like to peel them, then dice them small and add them to whatever I'm cooking with the florettes (add them first to give them a little extra cooking time). Stalks can also be shredded (use a hand grater, a food processor grater, a mandolin, or some serious knife skills) and added to a slaw. For more stalk inspiration, check out DIRT Magazine's piece, "When Life Gives Your Broccoli Stalks."
3. pea shoots
Delicate and sweet, pea shoots are a springtime treat. Add them raw to a salad, or top a dish with them for an elegant touch.
They're also great sauteed, fried, and blended. Ready to dive in? Here's a Brittish website all about the exciting things you can do with pea shoots.
4. Radish Greens
When people buy radishes at the market, it usually results in a fight. Customers regularly ask if we can remove the greens and throw them in the compost.
And, yes, we could do that. But then the customer would miss the amazing two-in-one you get when buying radishes with the greens!
Like the radish itself, the greens have a peppery taste like mustard greens. They are great sauteed up in olive oil with their root counterpart, blended into a pesto, or even as a raw addition to a salad.
5. squash blossoms
Squash blossoms have long been a high-end delicacy, served in Italian restaurants usually stuffed and fried. The flowers are delicate and often don't hold up well at farmers markets, but if you can get your hands on them, they're worth exploring.
There are two types of blossoms growing on a squash plant, the male and female. Male blossoms are just flowers, while female blossoms have the beginnings of a squash attached to the bottom. Either can be eaten.
The most common way to eat squash blossoms is stuffed, breaded, and baked or fried. Check out what my friend Lauren did with squash she picked up at the market:
- Remove stamens from squash blossoms
- Set out goat cheese to soften. Chop chives or other herb
- Mix herbs and cheese
- Stuff cheese mixture into flower. It can take a lot!
- Lightly twist the blossom shut.
- Beat 1 egg
- Dip blossom into beaten egg and then into panko
- Bake at 450° for about 10 minutes, or until crispy.
Not keen on frying? Check out Food52's "The Best (Non-Fried) Ways to Eat Squash Blossoms."
6. Sweet potato greens
Sweet potatoes grow underground for months and months, with winding vines popping up and spreading out to shade their turf. As the tubers grow, the greens can be snipped and cooked up without harming the root growth below.
For centuries, sweet potato greens have been braised and sauteed, turned into soup and eaten raw. Check out some options here.
7. Turnip Greens
Feeling creative?Watermelon rinds can also make excellent centerpieces if you know your way around a pen knife like this demo chef from the University of the District of Columbia (UDC)!