Is It Dangerous To Eat Tomato Stems And Leaves?

Have you ever noticed the incredible perfume that is released when a tomato is removed from its stem or you pluck the little green clump of leaves from its top? It is quite fragrant, but it also brings up an important question — are tomato stems and leaves safe to cook with and consume? There isn't a straight yes or no answer here, instead, they straddle the line depending on your food sensitivities. 

While the stems and leaves contain substances like solanine and tomatine, which can be harmful when eaten in large quantities, especially for people who have nightshade sensitivities — think bell peppers, eggplants, and potatoes — these substances are also in the favorite heirloom, San Marzano and Roma tomatoes that you slice up for salads and sandwiches. Harold McGee tried to end the debate over the tomato's greenery, penning a piece for the New York Times stating they do not hold a threat for those who don't have food allergies. This means it's time to get creative.   

How to use tomato stems and leaves

The leaves and stems are the flavorful part of the tomato you should be using in your sauce, and plenty of people add tomato leaves to their homemade red sauce. You can also use the leaves and stems to serve as a lovely herb to flavor your soups, stews, and even marinades. Their fibrous nature makes them tough and chewy to eat raw and they simply do not taste good; however, when cooked they release the oils that create that intoxicating aroma and make your recipes taste delicious.

Before you cook with your tomato stems or leaves, make certain you wash them. If you are making a sauce, you can toss them in with the rest of the ingredients and allow them to simmer. The result will be fragrant with an intense herby taste that echoes the aroma; just make certain to remove the stems before you serve. If you like them in your red sauce, you may want to add a few of the leaves to your pesto. Once chopped up the chewiness disappears. If you are truly adventurous, shred or grind those tomato leaves and add them to fresh pasta or pizza dough for a true flavor boost.