Eat Your Stems

15 minutes prep 20 minutes active cooking 35 minutes total
Makes 1 serving

Melissa Clark wrote about kale salad in the New York Times in 2007, and landfills across America have been filling with the discarded stems, also called the central ribs, ever since.

While some more enlightened cooks compost the stems, smarter (and cheaper) people eat them.

To be honest, I rarely eat kale salad. I prefer more tender leafy greens for salad, and I like my sturdy Brassicas like kale and collards cooked long and slow, which makes the stems tender and delicious.

Since I don’t destem the greens, I don’t have stems to dispose of. But lately, I’ve been making Portuguese-style collard greens, slicing the leaves into thin ribbons and cooking them quickly. It requires cutting out the stem and thick central rib from the leaves.

What You'll Need


For the shopping list

  • 1 bunch of collard greens or kale*
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • *Use destemmed leaves to make Portuguese-style collard greens or, if you must, kale salad

From our shop

Out of stock

4 tablespoons of  Madre Terra
$25.00– Sicily - Italy
To taste  Italian Fine Sea Salt
$7.00– Trapani - Sicily
1 teaspoon  Gravenstein Apple Cider Vinegar
$16.00– Napa - California


From the kitchen

  • 1 Chef Knife
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 1 Skillet or Pan with Lid

"Like the inner cores from cabbage and cauliflower, collard stems are both edible and tasty.

They just need a little attention. Here are a couple of ways to make them delicious."

~ Jim Dixon, founder Wellspent and Real Good Food

What you'll have to do

Step 1

Slice the stems thinly, 1/4 inch or less. A bunch of collards or kale will provide about a cup of chopped stems.

Step 2

Cook them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil with a pinch of salt for a few minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of vinegar along with about a half cup of water, cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the stems are very tender. Remove the lid and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Step 3

You’ll end up with barely enough for a single serving, but the cooked stems make a nice side dish on their own. But try adding them to a simple pasta dish, stir them into a bowl of beans, or fold the stems into an omelette.

More recipes

Portuguese-style Collard Greens with Louisiana Dried Shrimp

Portuguese-style Collard Greens with Louisiana Dried Shrimp

These quickly cooked collards get a flavor boost from what we call the bacon of the sea, Louisiana dried shrimp.

Check this recipe

Umami Rapini with Capers

Umami Rapini with Capers

Rapini, aka broccoli raab, gets an extra hit of savory goodness with a shot of fish sauce.

Check this recipe