BroccoLeaf: Could it be the next kale?
The broccoli leaves that the company, Nunes, is now selling under the trademark-pending name of BroccoLeaf are the young leaves that surround a head of broccoli typically in the centre of the plant. They are hand-harvested prior to the harvesting of the broccoli itself. And they are packed in the field just like other greens such as kale, chard and collard greens. They are also sold in a similar fashion.
Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing for the Salinas, CA-based firm, told The Produce News that the company has been marketing the item on a nationwide scale for about a month with great results from both retailers and consumers.
"We started working on it earlier this summer and did our due diligence before we launched it nationwide," he said. "We discovered it has great flavour with a sweet taste and an excellent nutritional profile. Chefs love it because it is very versatile. You can juice it, sauté it, bake it, use it in smoothies, and of course as a salad item. It has numerous applications."
Seeley said its discovery as a potential commercial product was brought to the attention of the company by one of its longtime growers, who prefers to remain in the background.
Earlier this year, Nunes and its well-known "Foxy" brand of produce launched a juicing campaign as a great and nutritious way to use whole vegetables. The campaign included social media outreach and the development of numerous recipes, including some smoothie options using kale.
"While we were developing that campaign one of our growers told us about young broccoli leaves," said Seeley. "He said he uses them for juicing and smoothies because they work better than kale, which can clog up the machine."
Nunes decided the idea deserved further exploration, and so it sent some broccoli leaves for a nutritional analysis. The company also worked with some chefs and a registered dietitian to see how broccoli leaves could be utilised in the kitchen — both at home and in restaurants.
The results were surprisingly positive.
"It has a very sweet flavour and pleasant taste," said Seeley. "It doesn't have that bitter taste that is sometimes associated with other greens."
Seeley said its nutritional profile show that it is an excellent source of antioxidants, calcium and vitamins A, K and C, as well as being a good source of folate.
He added, "We are big advocates of full produce consumption, which is why we started experimenting with broccoli leaves. But, the health findings and taste even took us by surprise. We know how fantastic broccoli leaves are for the soil, but nobody considered it a viable produce item. Everyone in our industry's been trying to find the next kale, and BroccoLeaf has been staring all of us in the face for decades."
Typically, after broccoli is harvested, the nutritious leaves are tilled back into the ground as a way to replenish the soil.