Ever wondered if can you eat squash leaves?
I noticed these big buckets of fuzzy, curly, decorative squash greens for the first time a while back at the farmers market. We eat a ton of greens, but I’ve never grown squash so it just never occurred to me to question if squash leaves are edible.
I asked the older Hmong lady selling them what to do with the squash leaves. She told me to peel the fuzzy skin off and boil them. This was rather vague, so as soon as I got my bunch home I scoured forums and blogs and found squash leaf recipes ranging from Hmong to Thai to Nigerian to Italian.
I’ve shared 9 different ways I found to make use of squash leaves and stems, as well as some tips for prepping and using them. So if you have pumpkins, zucchini or other squash spreading in your back yard, or you see a bunch of them at your farmers market, go buck wild with these ideas!
|Tenerumi Squash Leaf Soup|
1) Simmer in broth like soup. In fact, in Italy they call the leaves TENERUMI, and there’s a popular soup made out of it. I’ve actually made a version of it myself that I’ve included in my upcoming OAS Cookbook. It includes greens, noodles, carrots, baby potatoes and seasonings.
2) Sauté in oil or butter with a little bit of garlic and lemon juice, salt and pepper, serve on rice or as a side.
3) Sauté in a bit of fat, oil or butter and served with chicken and rice.
4) Cook the leaves and chopped stems with tomatoes and peanuts and eat with nsima, a cooked cornmeal that is like a stiff polenta. (I found this suggestion on this gardening forum )
5) Cook squash leaves in plain coconut milk (Thai style). Here’s a basic recipe for this.
6) Cook leaves in coconut milk with some curry powder, rice vermicelli, hard boiled eggs, shrimp or chicken, carrots, lime juice and ginger, like a Singapore Lakhsa style soup (this is one of my favorite soups ever. I don’t have a specific recipe I use since it changes every time I make it based on what’s in the fridge and how much time I have, but you can get a basic outline from Rasa Malaysia’s beautiful blog)
On another food forum, I found the following three suggestions:
7) A stew made with sautéed leaves combined with ground melon seeds or crushed peanuts. (Nigerian style)
8) Alternatively, sauté the leaves with tomatoes, onions and scotch bonnets (a type of really really hot Caribbean peppers), and season with stock, salt, and dried crayfish (or shrimps). This is a scrumptious sounding Nigerian dish that I think I’ll have to try, perhaps minus the super hot peppers…
9) Or, sauté with onion, garlic oil, turmeric and red chili powder and cook for about 10 min.
Add shrimp, potatoes, tomatoes, or other veggies.
10) Bonus! I assume that you can use these greens in most other recipes that call for steamed, sauteed, or cooked greens.
Tips for Preparing and Using Squash Leaves
Storing Squash Leaves
Squash leaves are best used fresh. I've found that storing them in a container of water in the fridge with a plastic bag wrapped over them is the best way to keep them fresh for a couple of days. I've tried storing them without water in the fridge and in water out of the fridge and found they wilt quickly, so in water, covered with a bag, in the fridge seems best.
To Peel or Not to Peel?
Some recipes call for you to peel the scratchy skin off the stems. Others don’t, and indicate that long cooking times break down the skin. I don’t peel mine (seriously, who has the time?!) and it turns out totally fine.
Wear gloves if your skin is at all sensitive. Yup. These babies can be itchy, particularly if you happen to have oral allergy syndrome and react when certain fruits and veggies touch your skin. I carried my bunch of squash leaves home from the farmers market in a bag over my shoulder, and they brushed against my arm along the way. When I got home my forearm was on fire and I wanted to peel my own skin off, never mind peeling the squash stems. I pulled out the gloves I normally reserve for cutting jalapeno peppers and wore those to protect my hands and forearms.
|Yup. I label my gloves. I wouldn't want to use my jalapeno gloves to scrub the toilet...|
Preparing and Using Squash Leaves and Stems
The stems can be a little tough, depending on how long they are. Trim off an inch or two from the bottom to get to the more tender stalks.
Wash thoroughly in a colander.
If desired, remove prickly skin from stems using a paring knife or peeler (again, I didn’t and found that my long cooking time was enough to get rid of any prickles, but you can if you want).
Chop both leaves and stems into 1-2” chunks.
Take photographs of the adorable curly vines that grow from the stems.
Have YOU ever had squash leaves? If so, I’d love to hear how you eat them!
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