Before we delve into the incredible diversity of flavorful edible leaves, here’s a quick explanation of a psychological phenomenon—one that’s been backed up by neurobiology: it’s called motivated perception.
At its simplest, because of motivated perception, our brains cause us to see what we want to see—to see what we expect.
Now, imagine picking up a carrot. You notice its stunning orange color (or another gorgeous hue, depending upon what carrot variety you’re imagining). Modern culture tells us that the root of the carrot is most important, so it’s only your chef’s creativity that allows you to brainstorm other possibilities for this delicious vegetable.
Including, of course, its incredible edible leaves.
“Any time you use the entire plant,” Farmer Lee shares, “the leaves can be a wonderful complement to the dish, adding more layers of related flavors and visual appeal.”
Chef Jamie Simpson agrees. “Sometimes, at The Chef’s Garden, we grow vegetables for their roots and, other times, their leaves—or fruits or blooms. Just because we don’t grow for leaves, though, doesn’t mean that they can’t be used in delicious and creative ways.”
In other words, in many cases, an edible leaf might be sitting right in front of us, Jamie says, waiting to be flavorfully prepared and eaten.
“For example,” he says, “really cool applications exist for carrot tops, beet greens, turnip greens, nasturtium leaves, asparagus leaves, kinome, and more when we look at a plant in a fresh, new way. Outside of nightshades leaves, which should be avoided, creative possibilities are pretty endless.”
Rainbow of Edible Leaves
Yes. So many possibilities exist! We’ll include a broad list of edible leaves here and, if you note that one is currently being shown as unavailable (after all, we farm in harmony with Mother Nature and her seasonal cycles), just reach out to your product specialist to find out more about availability as well as flavorful substitutions.
In December 2021, The New York Times named hibiscus as the flavor of the year for 2022 thanks to its ability to add its “crimson hue and tart, earthy flavor to everything from cocktails and sodas to crudos and yogurt.”
We agree! Fresh hibiscus leaves add incredible layers of flavor to salads (tossed ones, fruit salads, and more), stir fries, slaws, teas, and so much more. Hibiscus leaves add a satisfying crunch to dishes with their strikingly red, Japanese-maple shaped leaves adding eye-catching appeal to your plates.
A writer at Forbes.com, meanwhile, is deciding whether hibiscus or sorrel leaves should really be the edible leaf of the year. (“Oh, please,” Farmer Lee responds. “Don’t ask me to choose between two of my favorites!”)
As far back as 2017, we’ve noticed the soaring interest in sorrel because of its wonderfully sweet intro and tart finish. Choices include:
Amethyst sorrel leaves
Flaming Lucky sorrel leaves with blooms
Lucky clover sorrel leaves
Mixed lucky sorrel leaves
Plum lucky sorrel leaves
Rainbow lucky sorrel leaves
Red ribbon sorrel leaves
Traditional sorrel leaves
“Any time you use edible leaves,” Farmer Lee says, “you get bursts of flavor from just one individual leaf at minimal cost. These leaves offer up an organic and natural look that allows you to create a distinctive aesthetic, as well.”
Now, we don’t want to keep you in the dark about how we grow such beautiful beet blush leaves. You see, we grow them in the dark!
Why? This allows us to grow edible leaves with gorgeous leaves that hold both sweetness and subtle notes of beet earthiness within them. You can use beet blush leaves to add a layer of beet-y goodness to dishes that use the beet roots—or however else you want to leverage them for the maximum of delicious flavor.
Mixed beet blush
Sunrise beet blush
Sunset beet blush
Think of them as an eye-catching painter’s tool as you design plates of beauty
“If you’re looking for a spicy little bite from an unpretentious small green leaf,” Farmer Lee Jones says, “then petite nasturtium leaves are exactly what you need! They provide visual appeal with their miniature lily pads, perfect little spheres of green, or with a variegated zebra-like green and milky white appearance. They are nature’s geometry.”
Nasturtium leaves to explore include:
Traditional nasturtium leaves
Variegated nasturtium leaves
Mixed nasturtium leaves
Planning menus for President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Veteran’s Day? Nasturtiums (a Latin word meaning “nose twist”) can symbolize patriotism.
Sweet Potato Leaves
Jamie loves to experiment with using sweet potato leaves in his dishes. Available in limited quantities in green, during the right season, they’re also available in purple and neon yellow and pink. These edible leaves offer up a nicely balanced sweet flavor with a soft, oh-so-delicate crunch. Hues can remind diners of fall leaves, making them ideal for autumn dishes or any time you want to evoke that color scheme.
Additional Edible Leaves
Additional possibilities that add flavor, texture, and pops of visual appeal include these:
Citrus lace leaves: This ornately shaped edible leaf provides a bright citrusy zest with tangerine flavor notes. A member of the marigold family, chefs appreciate its vibrant flavor, silky texture, and delicate, lacy appearance.
Kinome leaves: Picture a tiny Japanese leaf that’s big on flavor, and you’ve got the kinome. They add delightful hints of mint to dishes plus lingering heat. Texture? Tender. Leaf appearance? Shiny and deep green
Licorice lace: If you’ve tasted Liquorice Allsorts, then you’ve already got an insight into its sweet candy-like flavor. Also called Irish lace because of its frilly appearance with feathery threads, the taste resembled anise.
Root beer leaves: Imagine drinking cool refreshing root beer and you’ll get a sense of what these heart-shaped dark-green edible leaves will add to dishes. Complex flavors include elements of licorice, sassafras, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and mint.
Contact your product specialist for answers to your questions and to order your edible leaves. If you have an idea for a leaf that we haven’t described, just let us know! We’re always experimenting with new varieties to please our cherished chefs!