Vegetable and Herb Stems: To Eat or Not to Eat

When making dishes using veggies like broccoli or kale and herbs like parsley or cilantro, recipes tend to call for the head or the leaves, relegating the stems as simply rubbish (though hopefully composted!). If you’ve ever felt guilty about wasting 3/4 of a plant or wondered if you were missing out on some extra nutrition, it’s time to get the scoop on stalks.

You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that vegetable stalks are quite tasty and certainly carry some nutritional benefits. Broccoli’s trucks, for example, contain calcium, iron and vitamin C. Adding herb stems to your dishes has its yummy place, too. Here are some ideas on how to use them to jazz up your meals and keep your waste to a minimum. 

Vegetable stalks (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, collard greens, etc.)

  • Slice up and toss into salads for a crunchy treat (they may need to be peeled first)
  • Shred into a slaw with other veggies like carrots and cabbage
  • Cut into pieces and steam until tender
  • Boil then saut√© with olive oil, garlic and/or soy sauce, or mix in with a pasta dish
  • Juice with other veggies like cucumber, celery and fennel
  • Peel and dip into dressings and sauces
  • Add to soups
  • Make broths/stocks (you can freeze them and do this later on)
  • Use stalks as you would with the head of the plant, like in a curry for instance. While the texture may be a little tougher, you may be pleasantly surprised at how good they taste.

Herb stems (cilantro, parsley, basil, mint, etc.)

  • Use to flavor sauces, soups and stews.
  • Chop finely and add into dips like salsa, guacamole or hummus
  • Sprinkle into main courses
  • Juice them along with vegetable stalks
  • Grind them up with a food processor and use as a spice like you would with dried herbs
  • Add them to oil or vinegar and let it infuse for at least a few days
  • Toss them on the grill with vegetables and let their aromas sink into the food

image: Maggie Hoffman