Real Men Sow

What Vegetables Produce Two Different Crops?

The other day, I published a post singing the praises of the Brussel sprout plant for its ability to feed me twice. My sprouts are now well past their best, but I’ve been treated to a couple of side dishes courtesy of the tasty sprout tops.

This little bonus got me thinking, especially after Alan from It’s Not Work, It’s Gardening pointed out that beetroots also share this double-feed quality. Are there other veg out there that provide me with two different meal opportunities? These (sometimes tenuous) answers are what I came up with:

Beetroots are one of my favourite veg to grow – dead easy and really delicious. What Alan pointed out (and something I’ve not realised) is that the leaves are added to salads. A quick check on some salad packs in the supermarket confirmed that beet leaves are slipped in to many of the leafy salads on sale.

Alan has been trying to convert his neighbour, who, like me, never considered eating the leaves of his beets.

Alan, if you fail with your neighbour, you’ve got one convertee here. I’ll be trying this come summer.

Pumpkins and Squashes
I grow as many squashes as possible during summer as they’re delicious, expensive to buy (I’m saving an average of £1.73 per squash at the mo), and keep for ages, as well as a few pumpkins because they’re great fun to grow.

The daft thing is, I always just discard the seeds, despite many people (including Ailsa) regularly munching on roasted seeds as a healthy snack. The muesli I tuck into at breakfast contains them too.

Squash and pumpkin seeds can both be roasted, and both fruits will spill out handfuls of the things when cut open. I’ll be trying this soon too…

Okay – as a ‘double-feeder’ this one’s a bit borderline, but here goes:

When I thin my carrots, I keep the little baby seedlings that I pull out, and pop them into salads. They’re really sweet and crunchy, and the early varieties especially have given me a carrot taster while the main crop grow on happily in the ground.

I’m sure there aren’t that many ploholders out there who actively grow an elder tree, so this isn’t strictly an allotment plant, but I love the heady scent and aromatic flavour of the elderflower so much that I couldn’t resist including it. And I reckon that elder is so common, that there must be one within 5 minutes of any plot or garden.

Elderflower cordial is one of my favourite drinks, and poured over ice with a mint leaf is surely the most refreshing taste of the summer. It is also used a lot in jams and sorbets, especially alongside gooseberry.

I’ve bulked up a blackberry jam with the little black berries too, and my homebrewing mate Dave shared a perfectly passable elderberry wine with me last summer…

Swiss Chard
In the past, I have tended to just use the leaves of chard like I do spinach – steamed, blanched, or simply folded into curries etc. However, mum told me that I was missing a trick, and that I should also eat the chunky stems as I would asparagus. As per usual, mum’s right, and these crunchy sections are excellent. I’ve also thrown a few in stir fries like pak choi, and they’re great.

Other Stuff
A little Googling also told me that some people use cauliflower leaves and stems in broths and soups, as well as celery leaves chopped up in salads as a sub for parsley. I’m also partial to a blackcurrant leaf tea from time to time.

Any More?
These choices are largely based on my experience, but I’m wondering if there are more? Does anyone else make use of parts of the plant other than the traditional bits?

I’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Tim KeatesMarch 24, 2011 at 7:57 pmReply

    Jono, Nice article thanks. Sorry I don’t buy your arguement about carrot thinnings, otherwise you could give leaves of the side of cabbage or tender leaves of any brassica. There are a number of plants that produce two crops.
    Try (New Zealand)Strawberry spinach- a seriously confused plant. Pea- tendrils, mange tout then the actual pods. Hamberg parsley (one of my favs), very underrated. nasturtiums- leaf flower (or bud) and seed over 4 month period. Salsify Flower or root. I choose flowerbud -delicious in garlic butter. Garlic. bulb in the green. dried, or flower heads (unopened). Leave a rocket plant to go to flower and eat the flowers in a salad. awesome with nectar inside. stinging nettle young leaves and again flower to sweeten tea. Many weeds are edible too.

    Hope that is food for thought

  2. EmmaMarch 24, 2011 at 8:11 pmReply

    You eat the leaves of turnips, too – and radish seed pods :)

  3. MarkMarch 24, 2011 at 9:43 pmReply

    In some Asian countries they also eat the leaves of squash – in Bangladesh it’s something of a delicacy. I’m told you just have to strip off the spiney bits on the stem before cooking – but I haven’t tried it yet.

    Mouli is a great ‘all in one’ – leaves are great tasty greens early in the year. Coriander is even better – edibly leaves, stems, roots, flowers and seeds. What’s more, the flowers attracts loads of beneficial insects. Actually, I keep meaning to write a whole post on coriander. I love it!

  4. Alex MMarch 24, 2011 at 9:46 pmReply

    Broad bean tops – delicious steamed and eaten with plenty of butter. Taste like beany spinach. Bonus is you’ll be preventing your plants getting blackfly too!

    • Jono

      JonoMarch 25, 2011 at 1:56 pmReplyAuthor

      Wow, thanks everyone for their comments so far, some great suggestions. Keep ‘em coming. :)

      Particularly like the broad bean tops idea, thanks Alex. Extra crops and pest control too, brilliant.

  5. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!March 24, 2011 at 10:16 pmReply

    Please remember that some parts of common edible plants are non-edible, even poisonous! So don’t get too too experimental in the “let’s try this part of the plant” area. Maybe you should do a follow-up post on parts of plants you should never eat.

    Also, when you get around to the beet leaves, you can steam or saute them as you would spinach — that’s how I like them. So if raw isn’t your thing, try cooking them.

    I’m definitely trying the Swiss chard stems once I have some. The seed packet has been purchased and is just waiting for the right weather…

  6. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLifeMarch 25, 2011 at 2:18 pmReply

    I’ll admit that I only found out about a year ago that the stalk of broccoli was edible – the florets were the only thing eaten in our house and I didn’t even eat that much for a long time…

    With carrots, someone suggested to me the other day that I grow out the carrot tops to get free greens for my chickens so I guess that’s a kinda a double crop.

    When we have a squash or pumpkin, nothing at all goes to waste/compost – if I don’t use the skin for our food, I boil it up until soft (10mins or so) then give it to the chickens (as a warming soup in the winter). They get the seeds and stuff too if we don’t want to roast them/know they’ll be pretty tasteless.

    Not something to grow but I love the different bits of wild garlic – the leaves, the spring onion like stems, the flavour bomb seed pods…

    I’m going to try the Swiss chard and the broad bean tops ideas too – thanks for sharing :)

  7. JelliebabeMarch 25, 2011 at 4:21 pmReply

    I’ve not tried it but you can eat broad bean pods if picked young, kind of like mange tout!

  8. EmmaMarch 26, 2011 at 8:05 amReply

    Broad bean flowers are edible too, Jelliebabe :)

  9. Janet/PlantalisciousMarch 27, 2011 at 2:50 pmReply

    Well I buy the carrot argument, mainly because I do the same. Broad bean tops are gorgeous and as pinching them out needs doing anyway, can’t go wrong. Pea tips, pea and bean pods when really young and then just contents when older and if borlotti then dried ones thrown in to soup – although that is probably cheating, as once you’ve eaten the young pod there will be no peas/beans. I think pretty much any young brassica leaves can be picked and eaten as baby leaves, after all, aren’t most of them used as the ever-trendy micro greens by chefs?

  10. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » Time to Sow my Pak ChoiJuly 19, 2011 at 7:38 pmReply

    [...] things going for it. Not only is it tasty, you can eat both the leaves and the crunchy stems too, so it’ll feed you twice. The plants are very fast growing (a full headed plant will often be ready to harvest in six weeks) [...]

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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