Brussels Sprout Leaves

Sweet, tender, a mild collard-like flavor.  Or as my dining companion put it, “They taste like brussels sprouts!”  Yes, but without the cabbage-edge.  Rather more like winter greens than sprout.

“We get three vegetables from the Brussels sprout plant,” says Tom DeNoble of DeNoble’s Farm.  “The sprouts, that everyone knows, are harvested in the fall through winter, then we harvest the leaves that grow around the sprouts in late winter, and in the early spring, there’s the rapini.”  Tom explains that Brussels sprouts that are left on the plant will, in the early spring, unfurl and send up a budding shoot.  These tops are delicious Brussels sprout rapini or raab (or rabe or rape).  Brussels sprouts are one of a number of the members of the Brassiceae family that shoot out rapini.  Come spring, we will also see turnip, broccoli, kale, and collard rapini, each unique in flavor, but similarly shaped – tender stalks bearing little branchy buds, like miniature spindly broccoli heads, and sometimes tiny yellow flowers (which are edible).  These rapini are sweetly bitter in flavor.

But in the weeks left of often shivvery cold (despite the calendar proclaiming spring’s just around the corner), we can savor the leaves.

Prepare them like very tender collards or kale.  In fact, I do little more than cut them into wide strips (I include most of the stalk, since I’ve found it to be quite tender – and no use stripping away tasty edible parts of the plant!), then sauté them in a hot skillet with good olive oil (the preparation is so simple, and the greens cook for such a short time that the flavor of the olive oil is still present after cooking, so I opt for a fruity flavored cooking medium).  I like to crush a couple of garlic cloves and let them warm in the oil before adding the greens.  The whole crushed cloves lend a soft garlicky flavor to the greens (rather than having bits of sharp, assertive garlic to bite through if you use chopped), then you can remove them before serving (or eat them).  I also sometimes add a scant pinch of chile flake, if I’m feeling a little spicy!

As hearty as Brussels sprout leaves may sound, they are quite delicate, their structure softening quickly in the pan, a minute longer than spinach, but much less cooking required compared to kale.  I  sautéed the leaves for about a minute and a half.  Totally tender, with a little chew, no bitterness or pungency, just sweet sprout leaf, reminiscent of the sprouts of autumn, softened by winter’s chill.

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About Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans

By offering Sage Culinary Advice, The Farmer's Feast assists Farmers' Market shoppers in making the most of their purchases, and helps vendors realize the culinary possibilities of their products. We create culinary education programs at Farmers' Markets. Through food preparation and cooking demonstrations, recipes focusing on technique, samples, stories and free advice, we're encouraging people to cook more often, from scratch, with market-fresh ingredients. Our goal? To cultivate domestic culinary arts. Once you've tasted the Farmer's Feast - glistening local produce, pastured meats, artisan cheese, wild seafood, rich nuts, grains and legumes - and see how easy cooking this bounty can be, you'll be hungry for fresh. Visit The Farmer's Feast on Facebook / E-mail wildeats@msn.com
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22 Responses to Brussels Sprout Leaves

  1. Hi there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to
    give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading your posts.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics?
    Thanks for your time!

    • Thanks for the compliment! As for similar blogs, try Farmers’ Market blogs or newsletters. I really like the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market newsletter, The Grapevine, and the Portland Farmers’ Market blog. But perhaps there are markets in your area that have online info. Good luck, and check in again – I’ll post more soon!

  2. Sara says:

    Thanks for his article. I was looking at my first planting of brussell sprouts and wondering about the leaves for the longest time. They looked delish! Just didn’t know if they were edible and how to prepare them, if they were. Great tips! Thanks again!!

  3. val the pal says:

    Looking for the nutritive value of the leaves….please?

  4. Nick says:

    Thanks for the post! Should we wait until late winter to harvest the leaves? I have some large leaves already on my brussels sprouts plants and didn’t know if it was like broccoli greens where you could harvest 2-3 leaves each week, or like kale where you can just harvest the larger lower leaves as appropriate.

  5. Hey! Thanks for being here! I appreciated your post, went out into the yard, and brought back in some brussels greens, wild sweet onion, broccoli, and squash-blossom. Sauteed with lemon-pepper and red chili flakes, they are DELICIOUS over quinoa!

  6. Nicole says:

    I am glad to know the leaves are edible.This is the my first time growing this plant. I have a garden full of these beautiful leaves and it would be ashame to let them go to waste.

    • ellen bay says:

      This is our first time growing them too and this morning was the first time we used the leaves. I can tell you, they were DELICIOUS! The stems were reminiscent of green beans in taste and tenderness. The greens were wonderful with no bitterness as kale can have. We’ve planted a good portion of our organic garden with kale. Next season we’ll balance that with a like amount of brussel sprouts, mostly for the leaves! Quick cooking IS best, though we use coconut oil instead of olive oil since it stands up to higher heat better. I can’t believe I never knew how wonderful these greens are!

  7. Vera B. says:

    I grew brussel sprouts this year for the 1st time and found them to be a most interesting plant. The leaves look just like beautiful collards. Glad to know other people are eating the leaves. Definitely can’t let these beauties go to waste! :-)

  8. Jim Schmechel says:

    Glad to know the flowers are edible. My Brussels Sprouts wintered over,and so did my turnip greens. Will be having some tonight. Nice post. Thanks.

  9. Now, I wish I had left more of them in the ground rather than giving them to my hens. Oh well, next time!

    • I’m sure your hens appreciated the treat…and returned the favor with some tasty eggs!
      I went out to my garden to start the spring get-ready and found several mache plants that have shot up stalks with tasty little broccoli-like buds atop. Trying one, I found them to be sweet, tender, and delicious. An exciting surprise find!

  10. Got sent some of these in a vegetable box. Thanks for the help, wouldn’t have known how to cook them otherwise. The results will be up later…

  11. Pingback: Fava Bean Tops | The Farmer's Feast

  12. Sold! I totally want these. Haven’t seen them in my local organic produce store. Must ask today. Thank you. Bookmarking. Sharing. All that.

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