When it comes to eating vegetables, have you ever really sat down and thought about the fact that it’s really a plant you’re eating? It’s easy to think of flowers being plants, but did you know most vegetables have the same parts of a flower? Such as a stem, seeds, flower, and roots. By the time the vegetable reaches the grocery store, alot has already been done and we’re left with the edible portion.
Today’s post looks at all the vegetable stems we eat! I just think of a vegetable as a vegetable, not really whether it’s a stem or not, so I really found it interesting just to have a different perspective!
Vegetable Stems We Eat
The vegetable stems we eat are rich in vitamins, minerals, and are packed with fiber. There are so many ways to incorporate these stems into tasty and healthy meals (when you eat rhubarb, for example, you only eat the stalk or stems), so you’re actually helping the environment by eating them and not wasting them!
Below are all the vegetable stems we eat, some nutritional content, and a variety of ways you can use them!
Broccoli is high in fiber, which is important for gut health, and is a good source of iron, folate, potassium, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin K. It is low in calories and rich in antioxidants. A Berkeley Wellness article notes the amount of nutrients in broccoli stalks is equal to that of broccoli florets (referenced by the USDA), make sure to eat those stalks too, so you maximize nutrient intake!
Ways to Eat:
- Add the stems to your juicer or blender in a smoothie
- Spiralize them to make some noodles (move over zucchini noodles!)
- Eat with a veggie dip or my personal favorite, almond butter
- Use them in a vegetable or bone broth
- And who could forget the simple salad topping?
Like broccoli, you should make full use of cauliflower by consuming the florets and stems. This vegetable is an excellent source of nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. It is also low in carbohydrates, making it a good choice for people who have diabetes or wishing to pursue a low-carb diet. In a 2018 article, the Mayo Clinic called cauliflower “the new nutrition superstar.”
Ways to Eat
- Cauliflower rice is quite popular today
- As a low-carb pizza crust
- Mashed cauliflower replacing mashed potatoes
- As a hummus (replacing chickpeas)
Celery is another vegetable in which all of its parts, including the stems, can be eaten. It’s pretty much all stem by the time it reaches the grocery store with a few flowers on the top. You don’t need to peel or get rid of anything, except maybe the base of the stalk, so you can enjoy the full benefits. Celery is high in Vitamin K and low in calories.
When I was a kid, someone told me celery contained -5 calories, so eating it would certainly help you lose weight! While it’s not true about the calorie content, it’s still very low and great for those looking to manage weight.
Ways to Eat:
- Add to a smoothie or juice it
- Add to a salad
- Eat with a peanut butter, almond, or hummus dip
- Add to a vegetable or bone broth
Asparagus is also considered a stem vegetable. It is high in folate, fiber and antioxidants. It should really be considered a superfood because it can help so many ailments!
High blood pressure? Eat asparagus!
High cholesterol? Eat asparagus!
Blood Sugar too high? Eat Asparagus!
Best part is no side effects! Well, may a little gas if you’re not used to fiber just yet, but that’ll settle!
Ways to Eat:
- Sauté in a skillet with some butter and garlic
- Roasted with some olive oil and almond slices
Only the stalks of rhubarb are eaten, since its leaves are toxic. Along with being high in calcium and vitamin K, a cup of rhubarb provides about two grams of fiber. It can be eaten raw but it is normally cooked. It you take delight in dessert, you’ve probably had rhubarb before, whether it’s rhubarb crisp, rhubarb pie, or rhubarb cake. As you were enjoying those treats, you probably didn’t realize you were eating the stems of a vegetable.
Kale is regarded as one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. It has more vitamin C than an orange and more calcium than milk. The same nutrients that are in the kale leaves are also in the stems. However, many people simply pick off the leaves and don’t think to eat the stems, which are thick and woody.
Ways to Eat:
- They may be difficult to eat raw, but they are great for smoothies
- The stems can be blanched, then sauteed or made into a pesto.
- Sauté in a skillet with butter and garlic
There is no trouble with eating the stems of a vegetable when it comes to green onions, also known as scallions. One cup of green onions contains only about 32 calories. The vegetable is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber.
Ways to Eat:
- Add in soups of salads
- Add as a pizza topping
- Burger topping
- Add to dips
- Great in curry dishes
You’ve also eaten the stem of a vegetable if you’ve ever had leeks. They belong to the same vegetable family as onions, the Allium vegetables. Leeks are more nutrient dense than green onions. A popular way to use this vegetable is by making potato leek soup.
The stems of turnips provide nutritional benefits. This vegetable is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. The root and the greens of the vegetable are edible, with the stem being part of the greens. According to Healthline, the nutrient quantities in the greens are even higher than those in the root.
Ways to Eat:
Add turnip greens to a quiche, soup or stew.
The stems of Swiss chard can also be eaten. You get nearly four grams of fiber from a cup of this vegetable. Swish chard is a great addition to stir-fries, pastas, casseroles, tacos and omelets. Finely chop the stems and give them more cooking time than the leaves.
Ways to Eat:
- Great addition to stir fry, pasta, casserole, tacos and omelets
Only the stem (the shoot) is eaten with the Bamboo vegetable. Bamboo shoots are a good source of B-vitamins, manganese, copper, and potassium. They should always be eaten cooked. A common use of Bamboo shoots is to put them in spring rolls.
Celtuce is known as stem lettuce and is taking Chinese cuisine by the storm! The stem is where it’s at with this vegetable. Often times, the leaves aren’t edible by the time it reaches the grocery store. It has more vitamin C and fiber than leaf lettuce.
Ways to Eat:
- Spiralize into noodles
- Put into sir-fry
Health and Environmental Benefits
According to a press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 only 9% of American adults met the recommended daily intake for vegetables, which is 2-3 cups a day.
When it comes to health, we all know vegetables are important in our daily diet. I can sit here and tell you the risk for chronic diseases and heart diseases lower. Vegetables help combat inflammation and have cancer fighting antioxidant properties. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to eat them. It’s about finding out ways to incorporate them into your lifestyle in ways you enjoy!
- Keeps us fuller because of the nutrients
- Aid in digestion
- Keeps bones strong and healthy
“Stems, skins and tops of fruits and vegetables carry even more nutrients than the fruit or vegetable themselves,” according to The Refreshing Point YouTube Channel. “If you are already going out of your way to buy beautiful, fresh, and perhaps even local and organic produce, then why waste a quarter to a half of it? Unless you’re composting, you’re getting rid of essential nutrition that could be beneficial to you.”
Cooking With Stems
Not sure what to do with the stems? In most cases, they will work well for smoothies, vegetable stock, salads, soup, and stir-fries. Get creative with your recipes to make sure you are using all the edible parts of the vegetable. You can also reach out to a health coach or nutritionist for advice on how to maximize the benefits of your vegetable consumption.
The stems and stalks of vegetables may lack in flavor and may require a lot of chewing if they are tough. However, it you soften them with cooking and make them part of delicious recipes, you’ll discover a new admiration for these stems and stalks while reaping all of their nutritional benefits.
Stems Are Cost Saving
A barrier for some people to eating more vegetables is the cost of groceries, which makes eating the edible stems even more important as a cost-saving measure. Pull out a few stalks of kale or a head of cauliflower from your fridge and observe how much stem there is. You’ll also be helping the environment if you eat all the edible parts of your vegetables. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 41 million tons of food waste was generated in the country in 2017. Food that goes into landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas.
“Does the throw away part of common vegetables have what it takes to become the next superstar of the green superfood world?” health expert Thomas DeLauer asked in a YouTube video. “Well, according to the research, yes it does. Typically, when it comes to broccoli, we think of the florets or the head portion and when we think of spinach we think of leaves and when we think of kale most of us think of the ruffage. For the most part, we tend to throw away the stems and the stalks, but little do most of us realize that these are actually one of the most important, nutrient-dense portions of these greens in the first place.”
Which of the stems on this list are you already eating or going to try to eat next time? What questions or comments do you have? Let me know in the comments!