Edible Vegetable Parts: What Are Some Secondary Edible Parts Of Vegetables

Zucchini flowers on white plate
Image by Laborer

By Amy Grant

Have you ever heard of secondary edible veggie plants? The name may be of newer origin, but the idea is definitely not. What does secondary edible veggie plants mean and is it an idea that can be useful to you? Read on to learn more.

Info on Edible Parts of Vegetable Plants

Most vegetable plants are cultivated for one, sometimes two major purposes, but they actually have a multitude of useful, edible parts.


An example of secondary edible parts of a vegetable is celery. We’ve all probably bought the trimmed, smooth sheath of celery at the local grocers, but if you are a home gardener and grow your own, you know celery doesn’t look quite like that. Not until the veggie is trimmed and all those secondary edible parts of the vegetable are removed does it look anything like what we purchase at the supermarket. In fact, those tender young leaves are delicious chopped into salads, soups, or anything you use celery in. They taste like celery but a bit more delicate; the flavor is muted somewhat.

That’s just one example of an edible vegetable part that is often discarded needlessly. In fact, each of us discards more than 200 pounds of edible food per year! Some of this is edible vegetable parts or parts of plants that the food industry tosses out because someone deemed them unfit or unappetizing for the dinner table. Some of this is a direct result of throwing out food we have been conditioned to think is inedible. Whatever the case, it’s time to change our thinking.

The idea of utilizing secondary edible parts of plants and veggies is a common practice in Africa and Asia; food waste is much higher in Europe and North America. This practice is referred to as “stem to root” and has actually been a Western philosophy, but not recently. My grandmother reared her children during the depression when the philosophy of waste not want not was in vogue and everything was difficult to obtain. I can remember a delicious example of this ideology – watermelon pickles. Yep, absolutely out of this world and made from the soft discarded rind of the watermelon.

Edible Vegetable Parts

So what other edible veggie parts have we been discarding? There are many examples, including:

Many plants have edible leaves too, although most of them are eaten cooked not raw. So what vegetable leaves are edible? Well, lots of veggie plants have edible leaves. In Asian and African cuisines, sweet potato leaves have long been popular ingredients in coconut sauces and peanut stews. A good source of vitamins and full of fiber, sweet potato leaves add a much needed nutrition boost.

The leaves of these plants are edible too:

And if you haven’t explored the delights of stuffed squash blossoms, I highly recommend you do! This blossom is delicious, as are numerous other edible flowers from calendula to nasturtium. Many of us snip off the blossoms of our basil plants to engender a bushier plant and allow all its energy to go into producing those delicious leaves, but don’t discard them! Use the basil blooms in tea or foods that you would normally flavor with basil. The flavor from the dainty buds is just a more delicate version of the leaves’ robust flavor and perfectly useful — as are the buds from many other herbs.

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