Using The Whole Dang Thing

So things are rolling in the garden, and I have to say (although I should knock on all the wood I can find) we’ve had a pretty great season so far. My intentional neglect seems to be more effective than drowning the lovelies as I usually do. I harvested my first broccoli ever the other day and it was stupendous. I should add that I really love broccoli – always have. Fresh from the garden broccoli is not as revelatory as fresh peas compared to store-bought; however, it was noticeably more delicious. More tender, sweeter, and green all the way through, rather than white in the middle like the store version.

While I was harvesting, I was thinking of Big Sis’ cauliflower leaf roasting escapades the other day, and so, since the variety I’m growing will still produce more broccoli, I just took the top head and the top of the stem, and then quietly, gently, furtively, I took just a few of the gihugic leaves as well. I chose them carefully so that I could get some more sun on my juvenile beans and cucumbers. My daughter evidenced some small amount of concern as she saw these enormous and, in my view, somewhat prehistoric-looking, leaves in the harvest bucket.

Back in the kitchen, I cut the leaves from the stems and chopped them roughly (is there any other way, really?). I warmed some olive oil in a skillet, placed the stems in and let them cook slowly while I assembled the other elements of my throw-together dinner. I steamed the broccoli, pulled out some bean sprouts, warmed some leftover quinoa, retrieved some cashew cream from its jar (you could totally use shredded cheese or parm), and let the stems soften a bit. Added 2 small cloves of garlic to the pan and stirred.  As everything else became warm, I added the brocco leaves to the pan with a little salt and some red wine vinegar. Then I added chopped spring onions. And thus, the varia-bowl of the week was born. I added some roasted pine nuts, because I can’t help myself when I smell a pine nut opportunity.

So I ate it, and it was delish, and it got me to thinking… what other plant parts am I discarding or relegating to the compost pile when they could well be going in my mouth, which lately has been wanting an awful lot of food in it all the time. Thus far, I’ve discovered that pretty much every part of the broccoli plant is edible (I assume cauliflower is the same) and that Shari Goodman has a few suggestions for all those bits.

Carrot greens are also apparently edible.  Now, in reading it was clear to me that carrot greens are not without controversy as members of their bio family can have toxic greens, so you should probably check this out for yourself just in case I, and other people, are wrong. I have to say, however, that I am looking at the row of carrots in a whole new way. I am ALWAYS up for a new pesto.

Now, I was aware that pea shoots are edible, and have enjoyed eating them (not my own, I simply can’t bear to shorten the life of any pea plant that is growing on my property). My question was whether or not the mature vines are edible. It seems that they are, although I don’t know if that makes them desirable, but I do intend to find out, especially since my pea production seems to be winding down. Wouldn’t that be a lovely way to extend pea season? Seems to me that even if they aren’t so dandy to eat, they might be swell for making bean soup broth.

In my internet searching I tried “eat the whole plant” and a variety of other word combinations that indicated that I wished to eat more than the conventionally farmed bit, but didn’t have a great amount of success. A few sites about how to eat the whole animal came up, and while I have respect for that notion as being both frugal and more respectful (if you’re going to kill it, you ought to at least make the most of it), it didn’t help me out very much. I’m sure this info is out there, I just haven’t hit on the right combination of words yet, or asked enough country gardeners. So I’ll put it out there to you my fine friends. Any of you eating the “other” parts of the plants these days? Veggie offal anyone?

12 responses

  1. Great post! I love to eat the peels and all on a lot of fruits and veggies. I was surprised to discover you can put a raw unpeeled beet in a vitamix with some fresh pineapple, orange, a little celery, some lemon slices (peel and all), a little almond milk, and have a delicious magenta smoothie.

  2. You’ve outdone yourself vocabularily speaking. First gihugic, and then veggie offal. I love it. And of course I am a non-peeler from way back. I don’t peel anything except the very top part of the beet that has been sticking out of the ground and is very hard and lumpy/dirty. That of course goes in the compost. It’s an interesting question that I shall be looking into as well!

  3. We have had 5 days of rain and more to come. My poor garden is drenched. I’m sure the leaves of the broccoli were great…another reason to grow your own.

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