Saved from the compost – leaf and stem soup!

I get a fruit and veg box and today in my box I had beetroot, kohlrabi and radishes (and more). All of them came with leaves and stems/ stalks and I wondered if they were edible.  A quick google later though and I found out that beetroot, kohrabi and radish stalks/ stems and leaves are all edible (anyone know what the difference is between stalks and stems?)!    I needed to make soup, I had a whole load of leaves and stems – so I chucked them on the compost. Only joking :). I made the soup like this:  

Sustainable gift wrap course


  • A whole load of radish, beetroot and kohlrabi stalks, stems and leaves
  • A couple of small carrots which had gone a little bit soft (you can use firm ones if you don’t have soft ones) 
  • 1 large onion (which had been rescued from my cold frame – read about that here)
  • 5 leeks
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium sized potato
  • Herbs – I sprinkled in some mixed herbs and added a in few bay leaves
  • Veg stock (I shamefully used 2 stock cubes which I don’t like because they have plastic in the wrapper and sugar and palm oil in the ingredients. If you make your own, then well done you – I am not there yet with making my own!).


  1. Wash the ingredients and chop them into small pieces
  2. Put them in a large saucepan (I am trialling a large stainless steel saucepan with a lid that Mr ETL found in our loft the other day) and cover them with boiling hot water.
  3. Bring the pan to a boil on the hob (I usually put it on the heat for about 10 minutes).
  4. Turn off the heat, take the pan off the hob and wrap the saucepan in a towel
  5. Put the wrapped up saucepan in a freezer bag lined with a woolly jumper or a towel or Woolcool (I borrowed mine from my Abel and Cole veg box delivery) .
  6. Put another layer of insulation on top of the towel wrapped pan, zip up the freezer bag and leave in a warm place (the warmest room or cupboard in the house) for an hour and a half.
  7. You can leave it like this, but I like to whizz it up with my hand blender (make sure you take the bay leaves out first!)
  8. Season to taste, eat and enjoy! Freeze the leftovers to enjoy another day!

Note 1: you can make this recipe using a slow cooker instead or instead of taking the soup off the heat you could just keep it simmering for between 30 mins to an hour.  I prefer the thermal cooking method because you don’t lose any water (great for reducing damp and condensation in my kitchen) and it uses a lot less energy, plus I don’t want to go out and buy a slow cooker if I don’t need one.  

Note 2: This soup wasn’t the most exciting soup I have ever tasted, but tasted really nice with added egg mayo – trust me egg mayo and tuna mayo make great additions to soup!

Next time I make leaf and stem soup I think I will add more potato or some squash and possibly some stronger flavoured herbs like rosemary or thyme.  

Note 3: The insulation will get a bit damp – either put them in the wash or hang them out to dry.# Next time you have some leaves and stems – save them from the compost heap by adding some herbs and veg of your choice and make up a batch of soup!  

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  1. Reading of your cooking method reminded me of what they used to do in WWII when fuel was rationed. They used 'hay boxes' which was basically the same idea as yours except they would put the dish inside a wooden box containing hay. I read once that paper is the best form of insulation and that the Scandinavians use paper dust as insulation for their houses.
    We have no heating in our kitchen (it's a big old Victorian house) and this is proving to be a problem because it can get so cold that I give up before I've properly finished… so the floor has not been mopped for ages. But when I use the slow cooker, or the top oven (it's basically a mini oven) on low (for slow baked potatoes, say) it takes the edge off the chill a bit. We live in the north so it does get chilly. I do like the ideas here, both the soup made from bits you'd otherwise throw away and the fuel-less cooking. Very clever!

  2. This sounds like a great idea to use up odds and ends. I'll try it with broccoli/cauliflower stalks next time we have some I think.

    Need to dig out our freezer bag and give the no energy slow cooker a go as well!

  3. Zoe

    If you have spare broccoli stalks, my favourite thing to do is to slice off the tough outer layer and then eat the inner section raw – it is nice chopped into batons. The other thing I do sometimes is slice the inner section into smaller pieces and add it to stir fries.

  4. Zoe

    I read about hay boxes – very clever! Unfortunately my method of cooking doesn't add much heat to the room as hopefully the heat isn't escaping or if it is it is happening very slowly. Plus I put the bag in the warmest room in the house to help it maintain the temperature.

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