I’ve grown vegetables since I was young, so when we bought our Ipswich house in 2006, one of my first projects was establishing a new garden in our back yard. Tilling that glacial gravel would have been an exercise in futility, so I made six 4′ x 8′ x 12″ frames and filled them with rich composted soil from where the previous owners had dumped the annual prodigious supply of oak leaves. Every year I mulch the areas between the boxes with layers of dried leaves and grass clippings, and this becomes soil that goes into the boxes the following year. In the spring I use a soaker hose to help the seeds germinate, but by June the garden is on its own. Dig down a few inches, and the soil is moist, barely affected by the extreme drought we’ve been experiencing this summer in Ipswich.
The dry sunny weather didn’t keep the broccoli in my garden from growing, but the heads have been brown and scrawny, hardly edible. The leaves, however are full and succulent, resembling the collards I grew up eating in the South. So I gave them a try, and discovered that broccoli leaves are delicious! One ounce of broccoli leaves gives you 90% of your daily requirement of vitamin A, and 40% of your vitamin C!
Mature broccoli leaves are edible, but younger leaves are softer and less likely to have bug holes. I picked “a mess of greens” (a Southern expression), rinsed them off, then microwaved them in a glass bowl with a small amount of water until they were soft, about 5 minutes. Cooked broccoli leaves are thicker and firmer than spinach, but just as good, and not bitter at all. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and pepper, perhaps some cheese or sour cream.
Fortunately I planted two crops of broccoli this year, so even with some of the leaves missing, the plants may still produce broccoli heads when wet cooler weather returns. Last year we ate broccoli into December, but this year I have a delicious new green to add to our summer repasts.