Can you eat the leaves of a broccoli plant?

Quick Answer

Yes, the leaves of a broccoli plant are edible and can be eaten. The leaves have a similar taste to the florets, with a hint of bitterness. Eating broccoli leaves is nutritious, providing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads, sautéed, steamed or added to soups, stews and casseroles.

Nutritional Profile of Broccoli Leaves

Broccoli leaves are highly nutritious, rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Here is an overview of the nutritional profile of broccoli leaves (per 100g):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 49
Protein 4.3g
Carbohydrates 6.6g
Fiber 3.3g
Vitamin A 805IU
Vitamin C 102mg
Vitamin K 141mcg
Folate 63mcg
Potassium 316mg
Calcium 74mg
Iron 1.2mg

As you can see, broccoli leaves provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fiber. They are especially high in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium.

The leaves also contain glucosinolates, the compounds that give broccoli its bitter flavor and cancer-fighting properties. So by eating the leaves, you get an extra boost of antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Taste and Texture

Broccoli leaves have a flavor profile similar to the florets, but with a slightly more bitter, robust taste. The leaves tend to be tougher and more fibrous than the florets.

When raw, the leaves have a crisp, crunchy texture. They soften up nicely when cooked by steaming, sautéing or adding to soups. Cooking helps mellow out the bitterness.

The stems of the leaves tend to be tougher than the leafy parts. If the stems seem too fibrous, you can tear off and discard them before eating or cooking the leaves.

How to Prepare Broccoli Leaves

Here are some ways you can eat broccoli leaves:

– Raw in salads – Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces and add to green, vegetable or broccoli salads. The crisp texture pairs well with creamy salad dressings.

– Sautéed – Sauté chopped leaves in olive oil over medium heat until bright green and just tender. Season with garlic, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

– Steamed – Steam the leaves for 3-5 minutes until vibrant green and tender. Toss with olive oil, seasonings and grated Parmesan.

– Soups and stews – Add chopped leaves during the last few minutes of cooking soups and stews. They’ll soften nicely and add nutrition.

– Casseroles and bakes – Mix whole or chopped leaves into casseroles, gratins, frittatas, pasta bakes and other dishes.

– Juiced – For an immune-boosting green juice, juice broccoli leaves with apple, lemon, ginger and celery.

– Pesto – Blend broccoli leaves, olive oil, garlic and nuts into a vibrant pesto sauce for pasta or sandwiches.

– Stir fries – Add chopped leaves to veggie stir fries for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking.

As you can see, broccoli leaves are endlessly versatile in both raw and cooked preparations. Use them anywhere you’d use broccoli florets. The leaves pair well with flavors like lemon, garlic, nuts, cheese and herbs.

Storage Tips

– Store fresh broccoli leaves in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer. They will keep for 3-5 days.

– You can also blanch the leaves by boiling for 1 minute, then shock in ice water. Drained and dried blanched leaves will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

– Broccoli leaves freeze exceptionally well. Blanch leaves, dry well, then freeze in airtight bags or containers. They’ll keep for up to one year.

– When freezing leaves, you can chop them first or freeze whole leaves. Whole leaves are easier to separate for use later.

– To use frozen broccoli leaves, simply thaw and use in recipes as you would fresh leaves.

Potential Concerns

Broccoli leaves are safe for most people to eat, but there are some considerations:

Pesticide residue: Non-organic broccoli may contain pesticide residues, which concentrate more in the leaves compared to the florets. If concerned, choose organic.

Thyroid issues: Broccoli contains goitrogens which may interfere with thyroid function in high amounts. This is only a concern for those with existing thyroid issues.

Blood thinner medication: High vitamin K foods like broccoli can inhibit blood thinner medication. Consult your doctor if taking blood thinners.

Allergies: Those with allergies to cruciferous vegetables may also react to broccoli leaves. Discontinue use if any allergy symptoms develop.

Overall, broccoli leaves are a safe, nutritious addition to the diet for most people. Introduce them gradually to check for any digestive issues or allergies.

Health Benefits of Eating Broccoli Leaves

Here is a closer look at some of the top health benefits of incorporating broccoli leaves into your diet:

Rich in Antioxidants

Broccoli leaves contain a powerhouse lineup of antioxidants including vitamin C, beta-carotene, kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds fight free radicals and oxidative damage, protecting cells against chronic disease.

Supports Heart Health

The anti-inflammatory nutrients in broccoli leaves help keep arteries clear of plaque buildup. The vitamin K also promotes healthy blood clotting and strengthens bones.

Boosts Immune Function

The vitamin C, vitamin A and antioxidants in broccoli leaves support the immune system and help the body fight off pathogens and infections.

Aids Detoxification

Broccoli contains special detoxifying compounds that boost the liver’s ability to neutralize pollutants and carcinogens. This helps rid the body of harmful toxins.

May Inhibit Cancer Cell Growth

Broccoli leaves are rich in glucosinolates which have demonstrated anti-cancer abilities in lab studies. However, more human research is needed.

Supports Digestive Health

The fiber in broccoli leaves promotes regularity and healthy gut bacteria levels. The nutrients also help reduce inflammation in the colon.

Good Source of Folate

Also known as vitamin B9, folate is essential for cell growth and prevention of birth defects. Just 1 cup of broccoli leaves boasts over 15% of the RDI of folate.

Contains Vitamin K

A 1 cup serving provides well over 100% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin K. This vitamin promotes proper blood clotting and bone metabolism.

So in summary, incorporating broccoli leaves into your diet provides a range of protective health benefits, from antioxidant effects to digestive support.

Nutrition Comparison to Broccoli Florets

Broccoli leaves often contain even higher levels of certain nutrients compared to the florets. Here is a nutrition comparison:

Nutrient Broccoli Florets Broccoli Leaves
Vitamin C 89.2mg 102mg
Vitamin K 102mcg 141mcg
Vitamin A 623IU 805IU
Folate 57mcg 63mcg
Beta-Carotene 361mcg 472mcg

As shown, broccoli leaves contain more vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, folate and beta-carotene than broccoli florets. The leaves provide these nutrients in significant amounts while being very low in calories.

How Much to Eat Per Day

There is no official recommendation for how much broccoli leaves to eat per day. Aim for 1-2 cups of chopped leaves or florets as part of your daily vegetable intake.

Consuming broccoli leaves regularly will provide a health boost from all the antioxidants, vitamins and beneficial plant compounds. Just be mindful of any digestive discomfort if eating very large portions.

As a very nutrient-dense green, broccoli leaves can be enjoyed often as part of a healthy, plant-focused diet.

Incorporating More Greens Into Your Diet

Here are some tips for getting more leafy greens like broccoli leaves into your daily diet:

– Add greens like broccoli leaves, kale, spinach or arugula to your morning smoothie. You won’t taste them mixed into the fruit.

– Mix chopped greens into grain bowls, soups, stews, egg scrambles, pasta sauces and casseroles. They’ll boost nutrition without altering taste.

– Make salad dressing with pureed greens like broccoli leaves or parsley to hide them. The flavors all blend together.

– When cooking grains like rice, quinoa or barley, mix in some chopped greens in the last few minutes until wilted.

– Opt for broccoli slaw instead of regular cabbage slaw for salads. Or mix the two together.

– Try new leafy greens regularly to find ones you enjoy. Different varieties have their own flavors and textures.

– Grow your own leafy greens in a garden, container or indoor aerogarden for a convenient nutrient boost.

With a little creativity, you can easily incorporate more broccoli leaves and leafy greens into your daily meals. Enjoy their incredible nutritional profile.

Do Wild Animals Eat Broccoli Leaves?

Broccoli is not naturally found in the wild, but it does have ancestors in the form of wild cabbages. Various wild mammals are known to forage on cabbage leaves and other plants in the Brassica family.

Deer, rabbits, groundhogs, rats, and mice have all been observed eating broccoli leaves and/or heads from gardens and farms. The high nutrient content attracts them.

Birds may also occasionally snack on parts of the broccoli plant, including leaves or florets. Domesticated farm animals that are fed broccoli waste may consume leaves as well.

So while broccoli itself doesn’t grow wild, many wild animals recognize it as an appetizing, nutritious food source thanks to its relation to cabbages and other wild greens. Next time you see nibbled broccoli plants, you can bet a hungry critter is the culprit!

Can Dogs Eat Broccoli Leaves?

Yes, broccoli leaves are safe for dogs to eat and provide excellent nutrition. In moderation, broccoli offers dogs the following health benefits:

– Fiber for digestion and regularity
– Antioxidants for immunity and health
– Vitamin K for healthy blood clotting
– Vitamin C for joint health and immunity
– Potassium for fluid balance and muscle function
– Phytochemicals that may prevent cancer

The leaves can be fed raw or cooked. Chop into small pieces to prevent choking. Introduce new foods slowly in case of digestive upset.

Avoid overfeeding broccoli, which can cause gas. Start with just a few florets or leaves until you know your dog tolerates it. The fiber may cause loose stools in some dogs.

Steer clear of seasoning with salt, butter or oil, which can be unhealthy for dogs. Always supervise your dog with new foods and remove any uneaten broccoli after 10-15 minutes.

Growing Broccoli for Leaves

If you want to grow broccoli plants specifically to harvest the nutritious leaves, here are some tips:

– Choose quick-growing broccoli varieties suited for leaf harvest like Broccolini, Chinese broccoli or sprouting broccoli. Regular broccoli also works.

– Sow seeds 1⁄4 inch deep in early spring or fall, spacing 2-4 inches apart in rows or beds. Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart.

– Harvest outer leaves regularly starting from the bottom up when they reach 4-6 inches long. Don’t take more than 1/3 of leaves at once.

– Allow the center bud and small inner leaves to continue developing into a head for later harvest.

– Cut outer leaves with a sharp knife or scissors, carefully to avoid damaging the main plant.

– Optimal growing conditions include full sun and moist, nutrient-rich soil with a pH between 6-7. Side dress with compost or fertilizer.

– Leaves will be sweetest and most tender after cooler weather below 75°F. Hot temperatures make them tougher.

– Stagger planting dates to ensure a continuous leaf harvest. Sow new seeds every 2-3 weeks.

Enjoy growing broccoli for both the delicious leaves and eventual central heads. The leaves make harvesting easy and ongoing for months!


Broccoli leaves offer a simple way to get an extra serving of greens into your diet. As you can see, the leaves are edible, versatile and provide a powerhouse of nutrition including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Enjoy broccoli leaves raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. They are delicious sautéed, steamed, juiced or added to salads, soups and more.

Incorporating the super nutritious leaves along with the florets provides health-protective benefits ranging from cancer prevention and heart health to bone support.

So next time you buy or grow broccoli, don’t discard those leaves. Use the whole plant and reap the dietary rewards through its incredible range of antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals.

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