16 Surprising Plant Parts You Can Eat

Don't toss out the stems and leaves of that broccoli—eat them instead!
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Eat Your Yard

There are many plant parts we toss, thinking they're not edible. From flowers to sweet potato vines, these 14 delectable plant parts might surprise you. Caution: for edible flowers, don’t buy the plants from ornamental stock in a garden center, instead buy organic herbs and vegetable plants or grow your own from seed to avoid contamination from pesticides.

Pansy and Viola Flowers

Pansy and viola (or Johnny jump-up) flowers add a fresh, wintergreen-like flavor that’s great for desserts. Botanically they are the same—pansies are the large-flowered form, violas have a smaller flower.

Borage

Borage

Blooming Chives

Chives have blue to pink, globe-shaped flower clusters with lots of onion flavor. They can be used in salads or to top soups or other savory dishes.

Bean Flowers

Bean flowers add color and flavor to salads or garnish to soups. Their colors range from white to blue-purple to brilliant red.

I don't need a bouquet of flowers, just plant me some squash :)

I don't need a bouquet of flowers, just plant me some squash :)

Nasturtium

Nasturtium is becoming known for it’s spicy flowers, but it’s peppery foliage is edible as well. Use it fresh in salads.

Sweet Potato Leaves and Vines

Sweet potato leaves are used in soups, fritters and other cooked dishes. They have a similar taste to kale and other young greens. Use the leaves and the vines in stir fries.

Snap Bean Leaves

Not a bean lover? No, problem. Eat the leaves. Snap bean leaves are quite nutritious and add a bean flavor to soups and stews. 

Broccoli Leaves and Stalks

Broccoli leaves have a flavor similar to the floret. Use them as you would the other cruciferous greens (collards, kale, etc.). Broccoli stalk is edible and nutritious either raw or cooked. Shred it into coleslaw or chop it up in vegetable soup.

Carrots Tops

Carrot leaves can be used as you would parsley, imparting a carroty flavor to soups, stews and salads. Use the tips of the tops and stay away from the tougher stems.

Okra Leaves

Okra leaves are technically edible but, being okra, have the slimy okra thing going for them (the acidity of vinegar or wine tends to reduce this effect). Use them sparingly in stews (i.e. gumbo) or possibly mixed greens. Batter frying may be just the thing. 

Corn Tassels

Corn tassels are the male flowers at the top of the stalk. As soon as they appear, they may be snipped for steaming and chopping into salads, or steep them to make tea. Don’t harvest all of them or you will not get a corn crop!

Pumpkin and Winter Squash Leaves and Seeds

Squash seeds are all edible, and particularly tasty snacks, when roasted and salted. Pumpkin seeds may be familiar, but don’t limit yourself. Try butternut or acorn squash seeds as well. Pumpkin and squash leaves can be sauteed and used as a side dish or in stews. 

Watermelon Rind

Watermelon rind is tasty when pickled, preserved or made into a chutney. It also has potential in sautees and stir fries.

Parsley Root

Parsley root is delicious when roasted or used as a substitution for parsnip or carrot. It can also be shredded or finely chopped for raw use in salads and sauces.