Can I Eat Broccoli's Stem?

a broccoli plant

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It’s a shame to go to the supermarket and buy broccoli by the pound if you only eat the crowns. Broccoli stems or stalks, sometimes called "poor man's asparagus," are certainly edible and are good sources of fiber; vitamins A, C and K; folate; and calcium. With proper preparation, the stalks can make tasty additions to soups, stir-fries, pasta dishes and purées.

Go Green

When you choose broccoli, look for deeply colored heads. The leaves should be crisp. The stalks should be brightly colored and firm, with no cracks or brown spots. Don’t choose broccoli that has a woody stalk, as this is a sign of age. Older broccoli stalks are tough and difficult to eat.

Preparing the Stalk

Wash and cut broccoli as you normally would, but save the stalks. Trim the leaves from the stalk and cut off the end with a paring knife. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough outer layer, or cut off this layer with a paring knife. Then cut the stalk into small coin-shaped pieces or sticks.

Raw is Good

If you cut away enough of the tough outer layer, you can eat broccoli stalks raw. Serve raw stalks with your favorite dips as part of a crudité platter. If you find that the stalks taste too much like raw cabbage, blanch them in boiling water for about two minutes. This will keep them crisp while removing any offending flavor.

So is Cooked

Because of the high amount of cellulose in broccoli stalks, they stay firm for a long time during cooking. If you’re cooking both the florets and stalks, put the stalks in the water or steamer two minutes before you add the florets. Cook them both for an additional couple of minutes. This will give your stalks enough time to become tender, without turning your florets to mush. For purees -- such as a leek and broccoli puree with sour cream or creme fraiche -- pass cooked broccoli stalks through a food processor. If you're using the stalks in vegetable soup or in broccoli-cheese soup, let them simmer in your broth for at least 10 minutes.