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I have seen several warnings to "expect high numbers of Japanese beetles this year," but I am not seeing them around my place.

Not yet, anyway.

Usually, I am battling high numbers in my corn, but they have not converged on me this year. I am hoping the warnings are "fake news."

Only time will tell.

I hope some of you have started your cole crop in your seed starting area; more specifically, I hope you have some broccoli started. The broccoli we buy and eat is actually a very small portion of the plant itself, and unless you grow broccoli in your garden, you will probably never see the massive greens that broccoli heads come from, as they cut all that away before it hits the produce section of the local grocery store.

We all know how great broccoli is for us and here is an added benefit: the leaves. Yep, you heard right, broccoli leaves. Broccoli leaves have been given the esteemed label of a "superfood" because they are considered one of the most nutritious vegetables available on the market today.

I am sure most of you, like me, have picked some of the smaller leaves to put in a salad, but I had no idea they were so good for you. The leaves provide more than 200 percent of the daily value of vitamin C in a serving. It contains a full nutritional lineup of B vitamins, potassium, iron, calcium, minerals and fiber. Broccoli leaves are a good source of lutein, a potent antioxidant that aids vision.

Your brain receives anti-amnesic benefits from eating broccoli leaves. Food scientists say adding them to your diet may help you remember more and learn more, too. Who doesn't need help in that department? I know I sure do.

When compared to the stems, the florets have a higher concentration of protective phytochemicals like beta carotene and sulforaphane (which has been shown to protect against certain cancers).

I takes a little planing to get the most from your broccoli plant. Using a knife, slice out that central head, sometimes called the crown, and leave the rest of the plant in to grow. Smaller broccoli florets will form along the stalk, arising from buds at the base of the remaining leaves. In fact, you may see some of them already starting to form when you cut out the big, central crown.

The side florets on broccoli can form rapidly, so check your plants frequently, and trim out the side florets when they are no more than about 4-5 inches long. These aren't likely to get big like the central crown, so the idea is to harvest many of them while they are small.

When you harvest your big, central broccoli crown, you'll probably end up cutting out a few leaves as well. Don't toss them into the compost pile. Instead, remove the mid-rib and add them to your broccoli dish. Once the central crown is removed from the plant, you can begin trimming out a few leaves from the plant. Just like you would with kale, remove the lower leaves on the plant first, and only take a few from each plant at a time. This is especially important if you want the plant to grow more side florets. They'll need those leaves to photosynthesize, which is how they feed themselves.

Once you have harvested all the side florets from your broccoli plant, you can trim out the rest of the leaves as well as the central stalk, which is edible as well, just chop off the toughest portions and peel off the exterior layer to reveal the crunchy sweetness of the central stem.

At some point all that is left is the roots, leaf midribs and the toughest portions of the stalk, making it time to feed the compost pile.

Happy gardening!

Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and a participant in the MU Extension's Callaway County Master Gardener program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]

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