Lately I have been on twitter asking all of my garden followers can I eat sunflower, broccoli, or cauliflower leaves? All three plants produce amazing green leaves and it seems Mother Nature created them for a reason. Usually people just put the green leaves in the compost pail. Twitter Garden Pals, Shibaguyz, (“2 guyz lovin’ the life we’ve made for ourselves here in Seattle. Stop by our corner of the Universe and say hey!”) told me to prepare them like I would other greens. Hmm. This could be interesting.
One of my other Twitter garden pals, Roy Stahl, creator of Plangarden.com software, told me he just throws his sunflower leaves in the compost. So, I thought, what the heck? I would experiment. What is the worse that can happen? I hate the leaves?
As you can see from the picture above, the leaves of my giant sunflower are quite large. The stalk must have been six to seven feet tall. Large enough perhaps to create table mats if I was crafty. (The leaves reminded me of the Verterra leaf plates that I previous featured on Green Talk.) Could I have steamed them together to make plates or dried them like other leaves? Perhaps use a little polyurethane to make them into durable table mats? Anyone crafty have an opinion?
Since crafty is not my middle name, I figured the only way to deal with them is to eat them raw or cook them. Large Sunflower leaves have a roughness about them so I knew eating them might be challenging. The leaves are not smooth like broccoli leaves. Being very brave or very stupid, whatever you think, I tore off a piece of the sunflower leaf, and stuck into my mouth. It did not have much taste. A little bitter like Kale and very chewy.
After this experience, I decided to cook them. For some reason I had a problems finding good vegan greens’ recipes. Not one recipe caught my eye. Having struck out the first night, I decided to put the leaves in pitchers of water and vowed I would return to my search tomorrow.
Tomorrow came and went. Last night, I noticed that the leaves started to look dried out. When I pulled them out of their large pitcher, all the water had disappeared. The leaves sucked the pitcher dry! I knew I had to cook the greens; otherwise they would be all dried out by tomorrow.
Many of the websites that I visited told me to cook the greens in boiling water to remove the bitterness. The length of time depends on the type of green. You just have to experiment. Once I put a few greens into the water, the leaves turned bright green and the water started turning a golden brown color.
After taking the greens in and out of the pot and rinsing them in cold water to stop the cooking, I finally decided that the sunflower leaves need about 15 to 20 minutes to release their bitterness. (You may find it takes less time.) Many of the websites indicated that the greens would taste sweet but I definitely did not think the sunflower leaves tasted sweet. To be honest it is kind of hard to describe them. They still tasted a little coarse and nondescript. I am not a greens eater so perhaps the taste is what a “green” tastes like. Readers? Thoughts?
I reserved the cooking water to use for my plants. It reminded me of strong ice tea. Readers, would anyone drink the “greens” water? I heard that plants love it.
My verdict about the sunflower leaves? Too tough and not much taste. Perhaps if I had cooked them in broth, maybe I would have liked them better. Any ideas?
So what else did I do with the sunflower leaves? During my research, I found an interesting recipe on how to make vegan or vegetarian Kale “chips.” I decided to make the vegan recipe using nutritional yeast. Following the directions, I cut the leaves into four inch pieces, tossed with olive oil and apple cider vinegar according to the direction and sprinkled nutritional yeast over the leaf pieces. Then, I baked them at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. The chips were pretty good, but crumble easily since they are paper thin. The yeast gave them a tangy taste. I bet the Parmesan cheese option would have been better. I will definitely try this recipe with my Kale.
- how do you like to cook greens? Share your recipes.
- have you ever cooked sunflower leaves?
- What do you do with large leaves such as cauliflower or sunflower leaves?