Health food: Stalks and stems

Jill Dupleix
Deliciously tender: Broccoli stem noodles.
Deliciously tender: Broccoli stem noodles. Photo: Cole Bennetts

What are they?

They're stalks, they're stems, they're about using it all, not just the glamorous bits. About reducing waste, and not throwing nutrients down the drain or dumping them into landfill. Yes people, it's time to Save Our Stalks, Steam Our Stems and Serve Our Shoots. Broccoli stems, in particular, are deliciously tender, and many people (including my mother) actually prefer them to the florets.

Where do they come from?

The same place that kale chips and green smoothies come from: a desire by health-minded people to benefit from greater nutrients and to reduce waste. At NSW's Tomah Gardens Restaurant in the Blue Mountains, chef Sean Moran serves home-grown glossy green broccoli stalks as a vegetable side dish. "The best thing that can happen to a cook is to get out into the garden and grow things," he says. "It's such a nice surprise to learn stalks and stems are so delicious."

A cafe by zero-waste evangelist and designer Joost Bakker specialises in four intense, nutritious broths made from Cape Grim beef bones, fruit and vegetable skins, organic chicken bones and marron and crab shells saved from the kitchens of Rockpool, Attica and the European. Naturally, he calls it Brothl. You choose your broth, then add mussels, bacon, noodles, kimchi, or and/or ''greens and weeds''.

"Stalks and stems are among the most nutrient-dense foods in the world," Bakker says. "A lot of the plant's energy goes into the stem to support the head - and what makes the plant strong, makes us strong."

Seven things to do with broccoli stems

1. Peel, cut into quarters lengthwise and use as raw crudite with a creamy dip.

2. Save them to add with other leftover vegetables into vegetable stock.

3. Cook in chicken stock with two chopped potatoes until tender then whiz into soup.

4. Cut stalks on diagonal and stir-fry with Chinese sausage, soy and hoisin sauce.


5. Pickle sliced stalks in vinegar, salt and sugar, and serve in burgers and salads.

6. Steam until tender and top with a fried egg and grated parmesan.

7. Steam until tender, mash and turn into vegie burgers and fritters.


Finely sliced into strips, leftover vegetable stalks or outer leaves cook very quickly and retain their goodness.

3 or 4 thick broccoli stalks, about 150g

1 carrot, peeled

1 red chilli

2 spring onions, trimmed

100g snow peas, tailed

200g dried soba noodles

1 to 2 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 small knob ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp soy or tamari

2 tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine)

1 tbsp chilli sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

sea salt and black pepper

1 tbsp lime or lemon juice

1 tbsp sesame seeds

1 lime or lemon, cut into wedges

1. Trim the broccoli stalks, cutting off any protruding leaves (save and include), then peel off the woody outer layer.

2. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the broccoli stems and the carrot lengthwise, or finely slice. Cut each slice lengthwise into long noodle-like strips.

3. Cut the chilli, spring onions and snow peas into long matchsticks.

4. Cook the soba noodles in simmering water for three minutes, drain and set aside.

5. In a fry pan, heat the oil, garlic and ginger and fry for 30 seconds. Add the broccoli, carrot, chilli, snow peas and any broccoli leaves, tossing well over high heat.

6. Add the soy, mirin, chilli sauce and sesame oil, tossing well.

7. Add the noodles, spring onions, sea salt, pepper and lime juice; toss to heat through.

8. Scatter with sesame seeds and serve with lime or lemon wedges.

Serves 4 as share dish



Tomah Gardens Restaurant, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Bells Line of Road, Mount Tomah, 0421 552 746,


Brothl, 123 Hardware Street, Melbourne, 03 9600 0588,