How to cook vegetable leaves
Radishes, turnips, onions, broccoli... All these vegetables have succulent, nutritious leaves that are delicious in many dishes. Read on for the many virtues of vegetables leaves and ideas for how to cook them from nutritionist Virginie Liégeois.
Good for your health
Rich in vitamins and minerals, vegetable leaves are really worth using in your cooking. They work particularly well in soups and sauces, and by using them up you will also minimise waste. “Instead of throwing them away you can add vegetable leaves to different meals,” Véronique Liégeois. Their rich content in vitamins and antioxidants is an added bonus. “Vegetable leaves often have vibrant colours and are a good source of carotene as well as folic acid — a weapon against anaemia that’s especially important during pregnancy.” Vegetable leaves also have a high vitamin C content. “The stems of onions and shallots sold in bunches are very rich in carotene,” says the nutritionist. Broccoli and cabbage leaves are also just as rich in calcium as the rest of these plants.
“The leaves of some vegetables like onions, turnips and radishes contain sulphurous substances that are thought to have anti-cancer properties,” Véronique Liègeois adds. On top of this, “vegetable leaves are also low in calories,” she explains.
Cooking vegetable leaves
The simplest things to cook with vegetable leaves are soups, sauces and vegetable dishes. “Radish, broccoli and turnip leaves will all boost the vitamin content in mashed potato, for example,” Véronique Liègeois explains. Soups with potato leaves, carrot tops and courgette leaves are also delicious. “Carotene stands up well to cooking,” the nutritionist points out, “and you can use onion and shallot leaves like chives to add flavour.” You can eat them cooked, mashed, added to grains or other vegetables, or even in an omelette.
Onion leaves can be used in vegetable dishes like sautéed leeks, for example. Simply cut them into small slices and sauté them with the leeks in butter and olive oil.
You can also eat vegetable leaves raw in smoothies (mixing fruit with vegetables) or added to salads. They’ll boost the vitamin C content and add a kick to the taste. Just be warned that these leaves can taste quite strong and are harder to digest when raw.
Choosing vegetable leaves
“To maximise the nutritious benefit you get from the leaves, always eat them very fresh and go for ones with the best colour. Sort out any that have wilted,” the nutritionist says. If the leaves are withered, the vitamin C content will have been largely destroyed. Remember that vegetables like radishes don’t contain as many vitamins as other kinds of veg. It’s important to select leaves carefully. Véronique Liègeois advises buying organic, and going to markets as there will be a faster turnover of produce.
What if you don’t cook them straight away? “Cut them neatly and place them in a sealable bag,” advises the nutritionist. Don’t keep them for more than 24 hours though, as after this the vitamin content will be considerably reduced.
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