Stalk and stem – Leaf to root

Stalk and stem – Leaf to root

The stalk is delicious, whether raw or cooked.

Broccoli and cauliflower are perhaps among the nation's favourite vegetables. Sadly, the stalk often ends up on the compost heap, but for some people, it's the best part.

Whenever Marcella Hazan, the famous author of several standard works on Italian cuisine, cooked broccoli for her husband, she encountered a problem. If he could have had his way, broccoli would have only consisted of stems, with no florets. In her book, "Neue Rezepte aus der klassischen italienischen Küche" (New recipes from the classic Italian kitchen), Hazan, who passed away in 2013, wrote: "My husband loves broccoli stalks – the thicker, the better – and prefers to eat them cooked, served warm and drenched in olive oil. He considers the florets a freak of nature and refuses to touch them."

Cauliflower stalks are generally delicious. In the Time Life book "Vegetables" from the 1970s, it explicitly states that, "The stalk is a delicacy and can be eaten raw." When I was in China recently, I also had cauliflower stalks. And Xu Long, who cooks for important state guests in the "Great Hall of the People" in Beijing, also prepared them for Angela Merkel two days after my visit. For my "Leaf to Root" project, Xu Long showed me how special vegetable parts are traditionally prepared in China. He cut the cauliflower stalks, including the leaves, into slices, blanched them, then fried them with shiitake mushrooms.

The stalk is a delicacy and can be eaten raw.

Our cauliflower plants are a godsend for me and "Leaf to Root" because they are entirely edible – from the leaf to the root, from the blossoms to the seeds. In other words, you never have to worry about whether a particular part of broccoli or cauliflower is edible. The leaves of broccoli and cauliflower, for example, which are also usually still attached when purchased in the supermarket, are very easy to prepare. Simply slice them finely and add them to a curry.

If you have a garden, you can also use the entire leaves of your broccoli and cauliflower plants – they're great for making crisps. And dear gardeners, please do not worry if your broccoli is almost blooming. Andreas Caminada told me that he serves flowering broccoli raw, seasoned with balsamic.

Of course, the great Marcella Hazan certainly didn't throw away the broccoli florets, but boiled them into soup, as she writes in her book. It seems that her husband was able to eat them in this form.


If you would like to cook your broccoli or cauliflower stalks, simply trim off the outer, tender skin – then you can prepare the stalk raw or cooked. Top Swiss chef Andreas Caminada, for example, slices and pickles it.

Esther – Leaf to Root
Esther – Leaf to Root
The food journalist loves to experiment with all parts of the vegetable.

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