Don’t throw those leaves away

We normally discard the cauliflower leaves and beetroot leaves. But they are packed with nutrition and taste great too.

Just the other day I was at this store, eager to pick up their weekly fresh organic vegetable produce. I overheard another customer ask the store owner to please cut away the leaves of the cauliflower as she did not know what to do with it. The store owner agreed, adding that she was also unaware.

Pic: Vinita

I could not resist jumping into this conversation. After all I had recently learnt something interesting about cauliflower leaves and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share it!

Julius Rego, a powerhouse of simple, practical and interesting information on plants and animals, had recently shared (during a community gardening session) that it is the leaves of the cauliflower that are the most nutritious part of this vegetable; yet these are simply cut and discarded by almost everyone.

So I shared this with the customer and store-owner. And they appeared just as surprised (and a trifle disbelieving perhaps!) as I had been when I first heard it. Somehow, after this incident I was inspired to learn more about cauliflower leaves and other such vegetable – gems!

For starters, I found that the cauliflower leaves are extremely rich in vitamin C and fibre, and taste good in a variety of simple preparations. My first attempt with the leaves involved stir frying the leaves with the chopped cauliflower head (with or without chopped onions and garlic) and eating it with a dressing of salt pepper and lemon juice. I have since learnt that they taste good with lettuce, chopped tomatoes and even with pomegranate!

Pic: Vinita

After much searching I chanced upon this link with three simple recipes for cauliflower leaves that we can easily experiment with.

Cauliflower leaves also have a stronger flavour than the head and can be used to flavour soups, stews and dips. Some people even eat them as finger foods with a dip! Just make sure you cut the central thicker rib of the leaf to make it easier to cook and eat.

When I asked Preeti Patil of Urban Leaves Mumbai to share her thoughts, she agreed that cauliflower leaves are indeed most nutritious, going on to add that even chana leaves (the leaves of Bengal Gram) are very healthy and tasty. Not having grown them myself so far, I plan to very soon. Here’s link to the simple recipe I found here. This goes very well with bajra or makki rotis.


Another gem that I discovered recently was beet greens ( the leaves of the beetroot plant). Seeing them grow on our terrace, a German friend who was visiting remarked that they used the leaves back home in salads and stir-fry preparations. He said often even if they did not eat the beet itself, they used the greens. I had not known that the greens were so nutritious and had not used the leaves in preparation so far. So the next time I harvested beetroots, I made sure I used the greens. And yes, they did taste good.

Beet greens contain notable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Like the root, they contain unique pigment antioxidants found to offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke, lower cholesterol levels in the body and have anti-aging effects.

Botanically, the root vegetable belongs to the beta vulgaris species. Scientific name: Beta vulgaris. Swiss chard is another member of the beta genus grown for its edible leaves. Here’s a recipe to make these Swiss chards.

I am sure all of you know about other such plants, vegetables and vegetables that most of us have lost touch with. It would be interesting if you share similar experiences.

The irony is that even if we wanted to, we would probably not be able to buy these at the local vegetable store since the leaves are typically discarded for packaging or appearance. So here’s another reason for you to start growing your own vegetables. You can make full use of them – leaves, stem, root and all.


  1. A W Xavier says:

    Useful topic. It really taste good. Besides,rice pulao prepared with the beetroot, raddish and similar leaves too taste good. good for all ages.

  2. Vinita says:

    thank you. Here are Preethi Sukumaran’s (from KRYA Chennai) thoughts:
    This is interesting information indeed! Thank you for sharing this and for the recipes as well.

    Beet leaves are high in oxalic acid, so the only thing I would like to add to this is that they should be properly cooked before eating, in moist heat.

    In Tamil cooking we have a greens preparation called keerai masiyal, which is supposed to be made in stone ware using a pestle or a “math”, where the greens are to be finely chopped and cooked in moist heat with constant mashing of the greens as they cook with the pestle.

    I think this should be the method used for cooking beet greens as well – research says that with constant mashing and fine chopping (in moist heat), the oxalic acid can be neutralized.


  3. S.Rama Prakash says:

    Thank you for the registration .I have read the article ,which was sent by my cousin..I had requested him to send a reference or two pertaining to Composting .

  4. Sunita Rajendra says:

    Thanks for the useful article, Vinita. Would like to add that even radish leaves are very healthy but are discarded by many people. Chopped radish leaves with finely chopped onions, green chillies and a dash of salt is a very good side dish with jowar rotis.

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