Don’t Toss The Greens! 6 Ways to Use Stalks & Stems in Meatless Meals

August 29th, 2016

Greens, stems, and stalks often get forgotten, but they have immense nutrition and flavor to offer. With a few exceptions (like rhubarb, whose stems are edible but leaves are toxic), most edible plants can be cooked and eaten from root to stem. The next time you prep veggies for your meatless meal, make sure to keep the greens!

Kale and Chard Stalks
The first step in prepping most kale and chard recipes is to remove the coarse, thick stems. These stems can be sautéed as a side dish or pickled with a brine of spices and vinegar. Cut your stems lengthwise for spear-style pickles or break them down in a food processor to ferment them kimchi-style.
Greens, Stalks, and Stems: Chard Stems
Greens, Stalks, and Stems: Radish Greens Radish Greens
Like most tasty root vegetables, radishes have flavorful leafy greens. These greens can be eaten fresh in a salad or sandwich, and are hearty enough to steam or sauté. The flavorful leaves can also be blended into soups or combined with oil, nuts, hard cheese and garlic for a simple, flavorful pesto!
Mushroom Stems
While the stems of edible mushrooms aren’t greens per-say, they can be delicious! Most recipes call for the caps of Crimini or Portobello mushrooms, but the stems can be diced and added to stir-fry, stuffing, omlettes, or duxelles. Tougher Shitake stems can add a lot of flavor to vegetable broths.
Greens, Stalks, and Stems: Mushroom Stems
Greens, Stalks, and Stems: Beet Greens Beet Greens
Beet greens can taste a little bitter when eaten fresh, a quality that makes them ideal for blanching, wilting, and steaming. Light cooking helps break down the toughness and offset their bitterness. Dress wilted greens with a dash of vinaigrette, slivered nuts, or shaved hard cheese for texture and taste.
Broccoli Stalks
Broccoli stalks are firm and thick with a mild flavor, making them perfect ingredients to add body to your favorite recipes. Peel the woody skin away and the remaining stalk can be grated for a fresh and zesty broccoli slaw, sliced into veggie sticks, or copped up and added to stir-fry blends.
Greens, Stalks, and Stems: Broccoli Stalks
Greens, Stalks, and Stems: Carrot Greens Carrot Tops
Carrot tops can be slightly bitter and add depth of flavor to dips and spreads. These greens shine when mixed with other fresh ingredients in hummus, pesto, and tabbouleh recipes. Finely mince your carrot greens (or run them through a food processor), add them your favorite dip recipe, and enjoy!


Working with an unusual vegetable greens, stems or stalks? Try these tips:

  • Put your clean greens, stems, roots, or peels into a freezer bag. When you have several cups of scraps saved up, add them to a pot of boiling water to build a delicious vegetable stock.
  • Scraps blend well into juices and smoothies. Want to keep that smoothie sweet? Add extra fruit. Adding bitter veggie scraps? Balance it with a little dairy.
  • Sturdy vegetable peelings can be deep fried and sprinkled with salt for satisfying chips.
  • When in doubt, toss your unusual food with olive oil and roast until fork-tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!