After washing them, what’s the first thing you do when you’re prepping a batch of delicious strawberries? Whether you’re turning them into a topping for shortcakes or eating them fresh on their own, the strawberry leaves and tops tend to get lopped off and tossed in the trash. However, you might want to hold onto those often discarded pieces next time. It turns out, they’re totally edible — and super healthy!
According to Dawn Combs from Mockingbird Meadows Farm in Ohio, strawberry leaves have been used in traditional medicine for years as an arthritis remedy, digestion aid, and metabolism booster. She adds that in Germany, their official medical advisory board claims they are “supportive therapy for respiratory, nervous, and circulatory systems.”
The experts at StrawberryPlants.org (which lives up to its claim as the “one stop for everything related to strawberry plants and growing strawberries”) also say that herbal remedies made from the leaves, stems, and flowers are believed to help with countless ailments. The long list includes “diarrhea, gout, kidney stones, bad breath, throat infections, fevers, inflammatory conditions, fainting, melancholy or depression, and diseases of the blood, spleen, and liver.”
This is all based on anecdotal evidence passed down through generations, but is likely linked to the fact that strawberry leaves are known to contain high levels of anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. A 2016 review of studies concluded that consuming these and other types of berry leaves (like blueberries) may promote healthy function throughout the body.
Nutritionist Lily Souther told Nottingham Post, “It’s important to note that as leaves become older, the [antioxidant] value decreases, so the leaves of fresh strawberries are likely to provide the highest antioxidant value.” She also mentioned some more promising studies: One that found certain polyphenols in strawberry leaves were potentially protective against harmful microbes and another that observed improved blood flow and blood pressure-lowering benefits. Souther adds that more research needs to be done, but this is a pretty great start!
Of course, even after learning all about all those perks, we understand if the leafy tops of strawberries don’t sound super appetizing. Luckily, there are some creative ways to use them that avoid any unpleasant texture or bitter taste. (Just remember to give them a good cleaning first.)
If you’re someone who loves strawberries in your smoothies, simply add the whole thing to your blender instead of trimming them. The fruity pulp (and other ingredients) will take the flavor foreground while the strawberry leaves sneak in the background with their nutrients.
When you do chop the tops off, save them to infuse in water for a refreshing summer sip! You can also let them hang out in a bottle of white vinegar with a dash of sugar for a fruity twist that tastes great splashed onto salads.
Whichever way you use them, you’ll be cutting down food waste and giving yourself a healthy boost!