Roasted Brassica Leaves

Broccoli and Cauliflower Leaves

The first time I saw a fully grown, straight-from-the-fields head of cauliflower, I didn’t even recognize it. An armful of a plant with layers of frilly leaves—almost petal-like—surrounding the tightly bound hub of florets of the plant. The creamy head—the part you usually see in the grocery store—was nestled deep inside the center of the leaves, like a bud waiting to bloom. It’s a striking plant that earns the “flower” in its name. If you shop in the farmers’ market, this is often how you will find them—gorgeous in all their glory. 

Broccoli grows in a similar way—a head of florets surrounded by long, frilly leaves. However, broccoli is harvested differently from cauliflower. Rather than taking the head and leaves all in one pass, it is possible to harvest broccoli in a “cut and come again” fashion. The farmer removes the largest broccoli crowns from the plant, leaving the leaves intact. Side shoots will continue to grow where the head was harvested, developing florets that provide a second, side harvest. At this time, the leaves can be taken as well. So, while you will often find broccoli leaves in the market, you will rarely find them surrounding the central crown.

Don’t see much broccoli or cauliflower leaf around at the market? Ask your farmer. It’s a bonus crop that usually gets turned under when the plant stops producing but, like garlic scapes, is starting to gain ground in the market as eaters come to understand its uses and great flavor. And that’s good news because these leaves aren’t just gorgeous, they taste terrific—very similar to other Brassicas, such as kale, that are grown for their greenery.

Roasted Brassica Leaves

Kale chips have become the belle of the ball in recent years. I predict the next gourmet chip will be these Roasted Brassica Leaves. Just like kale chips, they’re a kid-friendly—and grown-up friendly—way to crisp up some greens into snackable bites. Serve these up and you, too, can be a hipster food trailblazer.

Makes 2 servings

1 bunch of broccoli or cauliflower leaves (7 to 10), ribs removed, chopped into 2-inch squares
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub the leaf squares all over with the oil and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until crisp and just starting to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a day.

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Excerpted from Eat It Up!: 150 Recipes to Use Every Bit and Enjoy Every Bite of the Food You Buy by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.

Read more about Sherri Brooks Vinton's book and how to use every last bite of your vegetables