Did you know that some parts of vegetables that you usually put to rubbish are in fact edible? If you buy veggies from the farmers market or in small local shops, often you can get broccoli, cauliflower or carrots as a whole veg – with leaves and stems. When I was getting my veg delivery from a local farm I was feeling sorry to bin carrot, cauliflower and broccoli leaves, so I’ve made a research and see if I can use them anyhow. It turned out that there’s plenty of veggie parts we usually get rid of, that we could actually eat. And if you get your veggies from a sustainable and good source, that are harvested locally during the natural growing season you can go ahead and eat them whole. Moreover, sometimes leaves that we usually put to rubbish are more nutritious that the actual vegetable. There’s also couple fruits which parts you always throw away, but even though unbelievably they are edible. I will tell you about them at the end.
Why locally grown and seasonal veggies and fruits I think are the best?
Nutritional values are highest immediately after harvesting and decline over time. Long transportation and storing time requires some kind of chemicals that will make veggies and fruits look good for a long time. According to EWG there’s couple veggies and fruits that should be considered as highest content of pesticides. Strawberries are first. Apples came second in the ranking. The third place was taken by nectarines, and the fourth by peaches. There’s also: celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, cherry tomatoes and green cucumber. Unfortunately also very popular as a healthy food – kale. That’s why it’s so important to avoid buying vegetables from big supermarkets, or the one that where growing thousands miles from where you live. Buying locally means that fruits and veg are much less likely to be treated with chemicals to increase their shelf life during transport and storage.
Obviously it’s not always possible, and not everyone has an opportunity to buy only organic and locally grown products. But there’s still something you can do. Try to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, and when you’re in the supermarket take a good look on the label to see where the fruit or veg is from – choose these ones that was growing closest to you.
And now let’s see which parts of veg and fruit you’ve been foolishly putting to rubbish bin 😉
If you buy cauliflower with leaves, do not get rid of them. As the cauliflower have a lot of vitamins – from A and C to E, K, B6, folic acid, thiamine and niacin, also minerals like: zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Cauliflower leaves are perfect as homemade chips. Just drizzle them with olive oil and spices, and then put in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cooked in vegetable broth and blended with cream and spices, turn into a delicious green soup. Fried with clarified butter, can even be eaten solo. You can easily add them when making caulislaw (coleslaw made with cauliflower). Sky is the limit!
Broccoli stem and leaves are edible too. They contain a lot of fiber and are rich in, among others, valuable vitamin K. Just cut the stalk a little from the fibrous outer part and cut it into slices, and then boil it in water or steam. The leaves can be added to a salad, a green smoothie, or sautéed or baked with salt and pepper. If you like preparing homemade vegetable juices, you can also add broccoli leaves and stems.
Although it’s not very popular, but sometimes you can buy a beautiful bunch of carrot s with leaves. If you do so, never get rid of the leaves, because they contains more nutritional properties than the root itself! They are full of chlorophyll, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin K and C, helping to cleanse the body of toxins and deposits, detoxifies the liver and boosts your energy. You can use them to make pesto, green smoothies, chimichurri sauce, can be added to vegetable broth or different kind of salads.
Comparing to the root kohlrabi leaves contains much more vitamin C that the root. If you don’t want to loose this valuable vitamin put leaves to a salad. They also contain large amounts of iron. So if you deal with anaemia, you’re pregnant or just delivered a baby, make yourself a salad with kohlrabi leaves. They have quite intensive taste, so young leaves will be the best to spice up your salad, and larger leaves can be added to the soups.
Do you also always get rid of them? They contain twice as much vitamin C as lemon juice! They are a rich source of iron and calcium (they even win over spinach). They perfectly detoxify the body and improve metabolism. Finally, they regulate blood pressure and increase natural immunity. Young radish leaves can be added to a salad, larger ones because of their hardness and roughness will be better added to a green smoothie, soup or as a base for green pesto.
Surprised? If you do, take a look at these two fruits – the parts you always get rid of are also edible:
Strawberry stems and leaves
As it turns out, strawberry leaves are teeming with bioactive compounds, including anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Chlorophyll, protects the body against the harmful effects of free radicals and slows down the ageing process, and because of the fiber that supports the functioning of the intestines. Strawberry stalks also contain vitamin C and iron. You can obviously eat the stems with the strawberry itself, but you can also add the stems and leaves to a salad, green smoothies or pop them into a bottle with water to infuse. If you decide to eat the whole strawberry make sur that it’s from a good source. According to EWG strawberries contain, on average, as many as 13 dangerous pesticides. If you buy the perfect strawberries – large, red and without any blemish, you must be aware that such fruits are grown with pesticides.
Would you ever consider watermelon rind? It’s edible as a cucumber. Watermelon rind is full of easily digestible fiber, which helps to remove toxins from the body. The same as watermelon flesh has plenty of nutritional benefits. You can either pickle the rind, or remove the hard green skin, finely chop the rest and prepare a summer salsa or chutney – perfect as an addition to BBQ. Also watermelon seeds are edible. If you always spit them out, try to save them, dry and roast on a hot pan and you’ll get a great healthy snack.
As the icing on the cake, there’s quite a good few edible flowers you can add to your food if you’re lucky enough to have a garden or a meadow near by. Of course never pick up flowers that are growing near busy roads and industrial areas. I’m very curious about them, because I’ve never tried any edible flowers and they look so amazing as a decoration or a salad garnish. Have you ever tried them?
- basil – flowers come in a variety of colours, from white to pink to lavender. The taste is similar to the leaves, but milder
- garden pansy – petals have a slightly vague flavour, but if you eat the whole flower, it has a more mellow flavour. A good addition to cheeses and salads
- courgette and pumpkin – flowers of both are wonderful stuffing “vessels”, each with a delicate flavour. The stamens must be removed before use
- violet tricolor (Johnny Jump-Up) – lovely and delicious, the flowers have a subtle mint flavour, great for salads, pasta, fruit and drinks
- arugula (rocket) – flowers are small with dark centres and a peppery flavour that resembles leaves
- chamomile – small and daisy-like. Its flowers have a sweet flavour and are often used in tea. Allergy sufferers must be careful because they may be more prone to chamomile allergy
- lavender – sweet, spicy and fragrant flowers are a great addition to spicy and sweet dishes or homemade ice cream
- mint – flowers are just mint. Their intensity varies depending on the variety
- radish – variegated flowers of the radish have a distinct, peppery flavour
- rosemary – flowers taste like a milder version of the herb
- sage – flowers have a subtle flavour similar to the leaves
- daisy – has an interesting mint flavour.
For a change parts of vegetables and fruits
that you should never eat:
- potato stems, shoots and leaves – they contain solanine – toxic compound. Solanine is also found in unripe green potatoes
- tomato leaves and stems – they also contain solanine
- aubergine leaves and stems – can cause abdominal pain and food poisoning
- rhubarb leaves – contain large amounts of the dangerous oxalic acid. It can cause acute food poisoning, vomiting and severe stomach pain
- asparagus – only the young shoots of this plant are edible. We colloquially call them “asparagus” even though they are merely asparagus spikes. After the harvest period, the female variety of this plant produces buds and flowers, which develop red, berry-shaped fruits. Although they look tempting, they cannot be eaten. They contain a toxic chemical called sapogenin that can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting.
I can’t wait until spring and summer when I will get my veggie delivery again. I hope I encouraged you to try and instead of getting rid of some veggie parts you’ll use them to make a smoothie, pesto or delicious salad. Also take a look at your local community or farmers market when the Spring comes – I’m sure you will find plenty of healthy and delicious seasonal vegetables and fruits.