Vegetable Off-Cuts

Carrot tops and parsleyOne of the benefits of getting vegetables from a CSA, farmers’ market, or backyard garden, is that you often get the entire plant.

As with animals, there are parts of certain vegetables that are usually thrown out.  The most common examples are the green leaves of vegetables that are grown for their roots or stalks.  These greens deteriorate quickly after picking, so they’re cut off before the vegetables are shipped to the supermarket.

Of course, not all vegetable off-cuts can be eaten.  Some are poisonous (the leaves of the nightshade family, including potato and tomato), and I find that some that do make their way to the farmers’ market are of dubious eating quality.

Let’s start with the good ones.  Here are some vegetable off-cuts I like, and some ideas on how to use them.

  • Beet Greens – Primo greens.  Much like Swiss chard, with colourful, tender, stalks.
  • Celery Leaves – One of my favourite greens of all time.  The leaves from the light green heart are especially good.  They are tender, and taste more like celery than the stalk.
  • Onion Greens (not to be confused with green onions…) – Green onions are a variety of allium developed for their long green shoots.  Varieties of onion grown for their bulbs (eg. Spanish, White, Walla Walla) still have edible greens, though they rarely make it to the supermarket.  They aren’t as tender as green onions, but they still make for good eats, especially when folded into dough and deep fried.
  • Horseradish Greens – I was surprised when I saw these at the farmers’ market.  They taste remarkably similar to the root, though with less pungency.  They can be used sparingly in green salads, or minced and folded in a compound butter for steak.
  • Radish Greens – Peppery taste similar to the radishes themselves.  Good as salad greens, or chopped and mixed into radish butter.

I’ve seen the following greens for sale at farmers’ markets, or have tried them at Tipi Creek, and found that they have inferior eating quality.  If you’ve successfully prepared any of the veg below, I’m curious to know how you did it.

  • Carrot Tops – Some sources say you can make soup with carrot tops, though I find them too tough.  My only success with carrot tops has been in making a flavoured oil.
  • Kohlrabi Greens – These walk the line.  I find them too tough, whether raw or cooked.
  • Cabbage Greens – By “cabbage greens” I mean the large leaves at the base of the stalk that fall away from the head.  Like kohlrabi greens I find them too tough, even when braised.
  • Broccoli Greens – I’ve heard people rave about broccoli greens, but I’ve found them inedible, even with extended cooking.  I think maybe the young greens that are taken while thinning the garden are good, but the leaves taken once the plant has gone to seed are fibrous.