How to cut broccoli rabe?

Contents

Broccoli Rabe Harvest: How And When To Cut Broccoli Raab Plants

Image by F. Delventhal

Used extensively in Italian, Portuguese, Netherlands and Chinese cuisine, broccoli raab is also known as rapini, spring broccoli and broccoli rabe. This leafy plant, similar to turnip and broccoli, is grown for its leaves and its unopened flower buds and stems. Knowing when to cut broccoli raab plants and how to harvest broccoli rabe is crucial for achieving a tasty crop.

There are several varieties, with one being grown in the spring and one in the fall. Different varieties mature at different times so be sure you know what variety you are planting. This is extremely important when it comes to harvesting broccoli rabe leaves.

When to Cut Broccoli Raab Plants

href=”https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/broccoli-rabe/broccoli-rabe.htm”>Broccoli rabe is not difficult to grow. Seeds should be sown in the fall, winter or very early spring. Waiting too long in the spring to plant seeds speeds up the rate at which the flowers open, leading to poor quality leaves and a subsequently poor broccoli rabe harvest.

Plants that grow in the fall grow some before heading into dormancy for the winter. Harvesting broccoli rabe leaves occurs on these plants only after some spring growth has taken place.

How to Harvest Broccoli Rabe

It is easy to know when to cut broccoli raab plants. Broccoli rabe harvest occurs when plants are 1 to 2 feet tall, and flower buds have just begun to appear. Keep a keen eye on plants, however, as they bolt extremely quick.

Using a pair of clean and sharp garden shears, cut the stem 5 inches below the bud. Trimming broccoli rabe down to the ground after the first harvest is not recommended.

After you cut the first shoot, the plant will grow another small shoot that is also edible. This can be harvested later in the season.

Now that you know a little more about harvesting broccoli raab leaves, you can enjoy your crop with confidence.

A staple of the early spring Italian American garden is rapini, also called rapa, cima di rapa, broccoletti, broccoli rabe, broccoli raab, even friarielli in and around Naples. It is popular in Italy, especially in southern Italy where dozens of varieties are grown. Belonging to the family Brassicaceae, the mustard family, it’s closely related to turnip greens. Small broccoli-like heads appear on most varieties, although some are “senza testa”, without a head.

Rapini is often planted in the fall when it grows to several inches, then remains partially green but somewhat wilted looking over the winter. As soon as the weather warms slightly in very early spring, it begins to actively grow again and is ready to harvest in April and May. Tommasina planted hers last September after she pulled out the tomato and bean plants. Here are photos in the fall, then in early March, and then in April.


Many varieties can also be planted in early spring and harvested in early summer. It doesn’t have to be grown in cool weather, but it can tolerate very cold weather so it might as well be grown when not much else can be. The Macchiones planted some about two months ago and it will be ready to pick soon.


Here is a photo of Mr. Ciccone’s rapini. He has two varieties planted in one very long row. Half the row is the kind that forms heads (yellow flowers) and the other half is what is often referred to as Italian rapa in which the leaves are the only thing eaten. In the video he is talking about the kind that makes the broccoli heads.

Tommasina had just harvested some when I stopped by for a visit in late April. To harvest, cut the broccoli heads and leaves at about 6 inches. It will re-grow and provide several cuttings.

To prepare rapini, most varieties need to be boiled to remove some of the bitterness, then immersed in a cold water bath, drained, then squeezed of water. It’s usually sautéed in olive oil, garlic and salt. Like most vegetables, Italian Americans generally cook it until soft, not crunchy.

In the video below, Maria explains how to cook and prepare rapa, as she refers to it. And because I probably foolishly asked how long she cooks it, I love how she says “you cook it (boil it) until it’s cooked.” Plain and simple. No specific time. Having grown up with the same dishes that have been prepared for generations, she grew up seeing it prepared, never using recipe books and timers. I generally have given up asking for cooking times and temperatures, because I get responses like this. “You cook it until it’s cooked.” A polite, but slightly exasperated way to say, “You just cook it until it’s done, for God’s sake”.

Rapini is an excellent source of vitamins C, folate, calcium, potassium and beta-carotene and also contains the antioxidant lutein. One plant produces hundreds of seeds, so you’ll often see just a few plants left to flower and go to seed.

Tommasina had some Italian rapa seeds given to her by Turuzzu (Too ROOT su). This is a Calabrian nickname given to people with the name of Salvatore. I’ve heard about Turuzzu for several years now. He lives in a neighboring town. His is the garden Maria is referring to in the video. He seems to be legendary in the local Italian community and people talk about his seeds and garden with a bit of reverence and awe, sort of like some Italian gardening wizard. Hmm… I’ve got to meet this man. I’ll ask Tommasina for an introduction.

Stay tuned…We’re off to see Turuzzu…

Learn more about gardeners Giovanni Ciccone, Maria Macchione, and Tommasina Floro by clicking on their names here.

Broccoli Raab – Key Growing Information

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Brassica rapa var. ruvo
CULTURE: Hardy to light frost. Prefers soil with a pH of 6.0–7.5. Direct seed (recommended): Sow 1–2″ apart, ¼–½” deep, in rows 18–24″ apart. Thin to 4–6″ apart. Transplant: From early spring to late summer, sow 2–3 seeds per cell (thinning to one) in 72-cell plug trays 3–4 weeks before transplanting to the garden. If possible keep soil temperatures over 75°F/24°C until germination, then reduce air temp. to about 60°F/16°C to grow seedlings. Ensure good air circulation and light. Transplant outdoors 6–12″ apart.

DISEASES AND PESTS: The best insect pest control on young plants is the use of fabric row covers, which prevents the insects’ access to the plants. Control flea beetles with azadirachtin or pyrethrin, cabbage worms with B.t. Prevent disease with crop rotation and good sanitation. See catalog for further information.
HARVEST: Keep young leaves, stems, and flower buds picked for a continuous harvest over 2–4 weeks.
SEED SPECS: Seeds/oz.: Avg. 15,450). Avg. Direct Seeding Rate: 1 oz./1,000′, 1M/166′, 5M/830′, 175M/acre @ 6 seeds/ft., rows 18″ apart. Packet: 250 seeds, sows 20′.

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Broccoli Rabe

Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe is available year-round organically and conventionally.

Basic Cooking Techniques


  • • Trimming •

    How to trim Broccoli Rabe

    1. If using bunch broccoli rabe, trim off any discolored tips from the bottom.
    2. Use a paring knife to peel the skin off the thicker stems. Sever all the stems from the tops.
    3. Wash the greens in abundant cold water. Use pre-washed bagged broccoli rabe as is.

  • • Blanching •

    How to blanch Broccoli Rabe

    1. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring to a rolling boil.
    2. Trim broccoli rabe. See Trimming.
    3. Add the kosher salt to the boiling water. To keep broccoli rabe’s characteristic mustardy kick, blanch the greens for no more than ten seconds; drain at once, plunge into ice water to arrest cooking; drain again.
    Tips:

    For a mellower flavor and tender texture, cook the greens for 2-4 minutes, depending on your “kick” and “crunch” preference.


  • • Sautéeing •

    How to sautée Broccoli Rabe

    1. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring to a rolling boil.
    2. Meanwhile, trim off the very bottom of the stems of the broccoli rabe. Separate them from the crowns. Cut the stems into 2-inch pieces. Wash greens in abundant cold water. Use bagged broccoli rabe as is.
    3. Add the kosher salt to the boiling water, followed by the rabe stems. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the crowns and cook over medium-high heat until tender, 1–3 more minutes. Drain; set a little of the cooking water aside.
    4. In a skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, about 6 cloves, sliced. Sauté over medium heat until the garlic is nicely softened and golden, about 4 minutes; remove and reserve.
    5. Add the greens to the skillet and toss. Cover and warm over low heat, about 3 minutes. If the greens appear a little dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Toss again with the reserved garlic and serve hot.

  • • Puréeing •

    How to purée Broccoli Rabe

    1. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring to a rolling boil.
    2. Meanwhile, trim off the ends of the broccoli rabe. Sever all the stems from the crowns. Wash in abundant cold water. Use bagged broccoli rabe as is.
    3. Add the kosher salt to the boiling water and 3 tablespoons olive oil, followed by the broccoli rabe. Return the water to a boil and cook over high heat until the greens are tender, 7–9 minutes. Drain well, pressing to remove excess liquid.
    4. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a food processor and pulse to puree until the greens are smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. If the puree is watery, drain off excess liquid. Serve hot or warm, drizzled with additional olive oil and salt to taste.

    Include 4–6 large cloves of garlic, smashed, or hot chili pepper to the cooking water with the broccoli rabe. If you like, use both.


  • • Steaming •

    How to steam Broccoli Rabe

    1. Trim off the ends of the broccoli rabe. Sever all the stems from the crowns. Wash in abundant cold water. Use bagged broccoli rabe as is.
    2. Pour water into the bottom of a vegetable steamer to just below the bottom of the steamer insert.
    3. Put the prepared broccoli rabe in the insert and cover.
    4. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
    5. Cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer it to a plate and let any residual cooking water drain out.

  • • Grilling •

    How to grill Broccoli Rabe

    1. Blanch the broccoli rabe. Pat dry.
    2. Coat with enough olive oil to cover every surface!
    3. Arrange it carefully on the hot grill rack over medium heat.
    4. Cover and cook until seared but not charred, 4-5 minutes; turn and brown on the reverse side for additional 3-4 minutes.

    Because the greens are already coated with olive oil, they need no additional dressing, but if you like, serve them with slices of fresh lemon and freshly ground black pepper.

  1. If using bunch broccoli rabe, trim off any discolored tips from the bottom.
  2. Use a paring knife to peel the skin off the thicker stems. Sever all the stems from the tops.
  3. Wash the greens in abundant cold water. Use pre-washed bagged broccoli rabe as is.
  1. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Trim broccoli rabe. See Trimming.
  3. Add the kosher salt to the boiling water. To keep broccoli rabe’s characteristic mustardy kick, blanch the greens for no more than ten seconds; drain at once, plunge into ice water to arrest cooking; drain again.

For a mellower flavor and tender texture, cook the greens for 2-4 minutes, depending on your “kick” and “crunch” preference.

  1. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Meanwhile, trim off the very bottom of the stems of the broccoli rabe. Separate them from the crowns. Cut the stems into 2-inch pieces. Wash greens in abundant cold water. Use bagged broccoli rabe as is.
  3. Add the kosher salt to the boiling water, followed by the rabe stems. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the crowns and cook over medium-high heat until tender, 1–3 more minutes. Drain; set a little of the cooking water aside.
  4. In a skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, about 6 cloves, sliced. Sauté over medium heat until the garlic is nicely softened and golden, about 4 minutes; remove and reserve.
  5. Add the greens to the skillet and toss. Cover and warm over low heat, about 3 minutes. If the greens appear a little dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water. Toss again with the reserved garlic and serve hot.
  1. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Meanwhile, trim off the ends of the broccoli rabe. Sever all the stems from the crowns. Wash in abundant cold water. Use bagged broccoli rabe as is.
  3. Add the kosher salt to the boiling water and 3 tablespoons olive oil, followed by the broccoli rabe. Return the water to a boil and cook over high heat until the greens are tender, 7–9 minutes. Drain well, pressing to remove excess liquid.
  4. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a food processor and pulse to puree until the greens are smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. If the puree is watery, drain off excess liquid. Serve hot or warm, drizzled with additional olive oil and salt to taste.

Include 4–6 large cloves of garlic, smashed, or hot chili pepper to the cooking water with the broccoli rabe. If you like, use both.

  1. Trim off the ends of the broccoli rabe. Sever all the stems from the crowns. Wash in abundant cold water. Use bagged broccoli rabe as is.
  2. Pour water into the bottom of a vegetable steamer to just below the bottom of the steamer insert.
  3. Put the prepared broccoli rabe in the insert and cover.
  4. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
  5. Cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer it to a plate and let any residual cooking water drain out.
  1. Blanch the broccoli rabe. Pat dry.
  2. Coat with enough olive oil to cover every surface!
  3. Arrange it carefully on the hot grill rack over medium heat.
  4. Cover and cook until seared but not charred, 4-5 minutes; turn and brown on the reverse side for additional 3-4 minutes.

Because the greens are already coated with olive oil, they need no additional dressing, but if you like, serve them with slices of fresh lemon and freshly ground black pepper.

Featured Recipes

  • Broccoli Rabe Chips

    Zesty bites that make for a great snack right out of the oven, but work just as well as on-the-go treats.

    COOKING TIME: 25 minutes
    SERVES: 4

    • View Recipe •

  • Broccoli Rabe Peanut Soba Noodles

    A simple weeknight meal that’s hearty, quick and healthy!

    COOKING TIME: 25 minutes
    SERVES: 4

    Vegetarian

    • View Recipe •

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Have you ever wondered how to cook broccoli rabe? This Italian-Style Garlicky Broccoli Rabe recipe is the best way to make it less bitter. The combination of olive oil, garlic, cheese and crushed red pepper will provide you with the best rapini recipe aka sauteed broccoli rabe.

Farmer’s Markets are just great in the summer, aren’t they?

The abundance of produce with vibrant colors provides the perfect motivation to try all kinds of recipes. In an attempt to get inspired, I visited a local “market” this week-end.

As soon as I laid my eyes on the rapini, I knew I had to purchase it. During the car ride home, I couldn’t decide which of these two rapini recipes I was going to make. Was I going to prepare Broccoli Rabe Cavatelli Pasta or another favorite of mine, Italian Broccoli Rabe Orecchiette Pasta?

I’m guessing right now that there are some of you who love this stuff, some who hate it and some who have no idea what I’m talking about.

So let’s start with identifying broccoli rabe.

What is Broccoli Rabe aka Rapini?

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini (in Italian) is a member of the cabbage family. It has a 6 to 9 inch stalk and a few broccoli-like clusters. This green vegetable distinguishes itself from the rest because of its bitter taste — perhaps an acquired taste. Chances are that if you are a fan of arugula, you will like broccoli rabe.

What to look for when buying Broccoli Rabe:

  • florets and stems should have a dark green color;
  • stems should be firm;
  • florets should be tightly closed.

So now that we know what broccoli rabe is, what do we do with it?

How to cook rapini:

  • The first thing you need to do is trim the stems, taking off anywhere from 1-2 inches, the goal being to remove as much of the tough stalk as possible.
  • Then, just like any other vegetable, it needs to be washed.
  • Once that’s done, you need to cook it in a large pot of boiling, salted water until tender. Remove the broccoli rabe from the water and drain.
  • Try to squeeze out (with your hands) as much water as possible.

According to some, this process removes some of the bitterness.

How to make Sauteed Broccoli Rabe:

  • Over medium heat, drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.
  • Saute 2-3 cloves of minced garlic along with some red chili flakes (if using) for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the cooked broccoli rabe and sautee for a few minutes.
  • Finally. season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

That’s it! Once plated drizzle with olive oil and more cheese, if desired.

Broccoli Rabe Recipes:

Here are some ideas you can use the sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic. No recipe required to incorporate this bold tasting vegetable…

  • with pasta;
  • in soups;
  • as a topping for pizza;
  • with polenta or
  • in a sandwich.

Dark Green Vegetables we love:

Sauteed Broccolini

Italian Potato Salad

Crustless Spinach Quiche

Garlic Swiss Chard

ORIGINS OF THE RECIPE FOR Italian-Style Garlicky Broccoli Rabe:

Growing up Italian meant we would have broccoli rabe at least once a week. Just like this recipe for Swiss chard it would be served as a simple side or combined with other foods.

As was previously mentioned, more often than not, my mom would combine it with different pastas. My favorite was (and still is today) with Homemade Cavatelli!

I would encourage you to try out this Italian-style garlicky broccoli rabe recipe– this stuff really does grow on you. Let me know if you love it or hate it, but at least you can’t say you’re confused by it anymore!

THANKS SO MUCH for following and being part of the She Loves Biscotti community where you will find Simple & Tasty Family-Friendly Recipes with an Italian Twist.

Ciao for now,

Maria

★★★★★ If you have made this Broccoli Rabe recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!

Italian-Style Garlicky Broccoli Rabe

Some would say that broccoli rabe is an acquired taste because of its’ bitterness. Try this recipe for Italian-style garlicky broccoli rabe to be converted. 4.72 from 14 votes Pin Course: sides Cuisine: Italian Keyword: broccoli rabe, how to cook broccoli rabe, rapini recipe Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 35 minutes Servings: 4 servings Calories: 113kcal Author: Maria Vannelli RD

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • pinch red chili flakes optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese optional
  • olive oil for drizzling

Instructions

  • Trim the stems, anywhere from 1-2 inches.
  • Wash broccoli rabe properly.
  • Cook broccoli rabe in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender for approximately 5-7 minutes.
  • Drain and squeeze in order to remove as much of the liquid as possible.
  • Over medium heat, drizzle olive oil in a large skillet.
  • Sauté minced garlic and chili flakes for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the broccoli rabe and saute for 3-5 minutes or until tender.
  • Season.
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  • Place on serving dish and drizzle with olive oil.

Scroll UP for the STEP by STEP PhotosDon’t miss the process shots and videos included in most posts. Simply scroll up the post to find them. Those were created especially for you so that you can make the recipe perfectly every single time you try it.

Notes

I prefer to chop up my broccoli rabe before stir-frying it with the garlic. Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is just a rough estimate and variations can occur depending on the specific ingredients used.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 113kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 38mg | Potassium: 119mg | Fiber: 1g | Vitamin A: 1480IU | Vitamin C: 12.1mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 1.3mg Tried this recipe?Mention @shelovesbiscotti or tag #shelovesbiscotti!

Growing Rapini: The Uncommon Cole

Growing rapini, or broccoli raab, in your home garden, can yield delicious benefits. For one thing, it can provide a nutritious green vegetable during very early spring and very late fall, times when few other crops are productive. And for another, it has a perky, unusual flavor that you just plain won’t get from any other vegetable. (The best I can do to describe the rapini “culinary experience” is to say that the leaves taste a bit like turnip greens, while the flavor of the flower shoots resembles that of mustard greens!)

But just what is rapini? Well, although this little-known plant is related to both mustard and turnips (indeed, some people raise a similar crop simply by letting ordinary turnip plants mature to the budding stage), Brassica campestris probably most resembles its cousin broccoli. Raab produces a central bud within eight weeks after seed is sown in the garden. When this head is cut, the plant will send up smaller side shoots with dime-sized tips. You can harvest these tasty second shoots and, a short while later, even gather a third cutting!

Don’t wait until your first pickings are as large as broccoli heads, however, or the much smaller buds will go to flower—and then seed—while you’re still hoping for them to fatten up. Because so many American raab-growing novices have made precisely that mistake, one seed company offers the vegetable for sale to “European customers only” (rapini’s often grown in Europe), just to reduce the number of gardeners who “misraise”—and are likely to complain about—the plant!

Planting Rapini

Despite its difference from broccoli, though, rapini prefers the same growing season as does its Brassica relative: It will tolerate light frosts, but will bolt to seed in hot weather. Here in South Carolina, I sow my fall crop about six to eight weeks before the date of the first expected frost, and plant my spring crop quite early in the year, while the soil temperature is still in the mid-40’s! (As the season progresses and the spring-planted raab deteriorates, I often set tomato plants among the Brassica, letting the two crops share space for a while, and later pull the finished raab out and feed it to my livestock.) Some growers also make late fall sowings—which they then mulch over during the cold months, especially if their local winters are typically harsh—for extra-early spring harvests.

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To plant, I open a 50-foot furrow and line it with about 25 pounds of rough compost. (Rapini doesn’t require heavy fertilization, but does appreciate a bit of a nutritional boost. It also prefers soil with a pH above 6.0.) I top my compost with a layer of earth, sprinkle seeds thinly in this loam, and cover them with a half-inch more of soil.

Although some growers crowd their raab by planting on two-inch centers, I prefer to thin my young sprouts until they’re six inches apart, so that they can develop a good quantity of greens. (Pulled seedlings transplant well, and can be moved to another row if desired.)

Harvesting Rapini

About six to eight weeks after sowing, the first heads are usually ready to pick. Rapini buds shatter easily, so I cut the stems well below their heads, taking a cluster of leaves with each. I usually begin harvesting—as early as possible—at one end of my row. Then I move down the line, gathering a meal’s worth every day or so. By the time I pick the shoots from the end of my 50-foot row, the plants I started with will have put out their second growth!

Cooking Broccoli Raab

To cook rapini, I first strip the leaves from the stem, examine my pickings for insects, and wash the crop in cold water. Then I cut the leaves into strips, slice the stems into serving-sized pieces, and drop everything—buds, leaves, and stems—into rapidly boiling water. (In my experience, this hard initial cooking keeps the vegetable from tasting bitter.) As soon as the leaves are thoroughly wilted, I lower the heat and simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes. Oftentimes, I’ll add a small chunk of ham to the pan for flavoring, and then join my family in some good eating!

And once you’ve sampled boiled raab, you’ll want to experiment with other ways of preparing the versatile Brassica. You can, for instance, cook and serve the greens alone, or eat the steamed stalks as mock asparagus. Third-growth cuttings work particularly well for the latter purpose, since they tend to have many stalks but tiny leaves and well-nigh insignificant heads. (Such shoots are also tasty sliced and stir-fried in a bit of oil that’s seasoned with garlic.)

Right now, many growers are watching their gardens slowly die, as the profusion of mature, and nearly exhausted, crops starts to decline. Why not put a row of new life into your plot by sowing some rapini? In a few weeks, you’ll be glad you did!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Two sources of broccoli raab seed are Stokes Seeds Inc., and Harris Seeds.

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There’s little dispute that including vegetables in our diets does indeed improve our overall health and supplies our bodies with valuable nutrients to function properly and perform at our best. To ensure that we are receiving a full range of these nutrients we need to be mindful that we work to vary our diets. Often, we can get in a rut, eating the same few veggies, week in and week out. This can happen because certain foods, including vegetables, are familiar and we are comfortable with them, knowing what to expect in taste and preparation. However, never shaking things up can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients. To keep on track it’s best to add new foods, especially fresh vegetables, into our eating repertoire.

A vegetable that can add variety and bump up our nutritional profile is broccoli rabe or raab (both pronounced broccoli rob).

Fresh Rabe. Photo credit: The Vegetable Garden Online

While this vegetable sounds like broccoli’s little brother, this leafy green delight is more closely related to the turnip. But don’t worry; broccoli and broccoli rabe hangout together at the mustard family reunion, as they are both in the Brassicaceae family of plants (aka mustard plants). With roots traced back to China and the Mediterranean region, broccoli rabe is still a popular dish in Italian societies and is gaining some momentum in the United States and some areas in Canada.

So, what makes this little-known vegetable so special? Besides the fact that it also answers to the names Rapini, Broccoletto, or simply rabe or raab, it is simple to prepare and grow and can bump up the nutritional value of your next meal.

Broccoli Rabe Benefits:

Taking a look at what rabe can offer you nutritionally, we can see that a 1 cup serving (40g) of raw rabe is approximately 9 calories, providing 1 g of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, with 0 sugars and fats. What it also offers us is vitamin K, A, C, E, and folate. Rabe can also be looked at as source for potassium, phosphorus, calcium, copper, and magnesium, with a little iron and zinc to offer as well. Rabe also contains phytochemicals, which have been shown can help prevent cell damage and therefore help prevent cancer.

Growing Broccoli Rabe:

Broccoli Rabe Shoots. Photo credit: Microsoft 2010 clipart

To grow this cruciferous green wonder is relatively simple and easy. Rabe is a cool weather, fast growing plant that can be ready to pick in about 40-70 days depending on the variety. It can be planted in early spring or late summer (to harvest in the fall). For those go getters, seeds can be started (indoors only) 6-8 weeks prior to the latest expected frost date in your region.

To grow well, rabe shoots like to be planted about 6 inches apart in soil that is within the 60-65 degree temperature range, with a neutral pH (~7). Full sun is what this plant prefers but can handle a little shade. If planting in a garden with other vegetables note that bean varieties may not mesh well with rabe. However, rabe does play nice with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, root vegetables, and even spinach. As with any plant, rabe needs to be watered, just do so moderately and evenly.

Garden Intruders:

Most gardeners experience six legged creature invaders that like to enjoy the vegetables and fruits as much as we do. Insects such as the diamondback moth caterpillar and aphids enjoy rabe as well, but can be controlled without harmful chemicals.

The beneficial ladybug, aka lady beetle. Photo credit: UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County

One method to thwart the moth is to cover the plants at night with a thin bedsheet and therefore the moths cannot get to them. Also, inviting natural predators, such as the ladybug that will eat the aphid, can help control unwanted insect populations. By planting decorative plants such as marigolds, more beneficial insects will visit your garden and help reduce those insects that can eat up your rabe.

Soil Health:

Something else to consider with rabe, or any vegetable or fruit, is that its nutrient profile is only as good as the soil it is grown in. If the soil is depleted the plant may not grow well or be able to provide the nutrients we are expecting. Treating the soil kind and appropriately is the best way to ensure you have a healthy and bountiful crop. Rotating your garden crops is one way to do this. Just be sure when rotating rabe, don’t have it follow cabbage, or really any other Brassicaceae family member, as disease and pests of the Brassicaceae family can build up.

Also good to know is that rabe is a proficient user of nitrogen and therefore proper fertilization is usually necessary. If you are going to fertilize choose to go the organic route. Some of the best soil add-ins are organic manures and composts. Keeping it all organic insures your plants, and therefore you, won’t be taking in any unwanted and harmful chemicals.

Preparing Broccoli Rabe:

So now that you have successfully grown some rabe, or found it in your local supermarket, what do you with it? When it comes to rabe, typically only the leaves are consumed and the stems are discarded. Due to the fact that rabe can have a bit of a pungent flavor it is best to cook rabe before eating. An easy and tasty way to prepare rabe is simply by sautéing it.

Photo credit: Epicurious

To sauté’:

Heat about 3-4 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan and then add a few cloves of garlic (smashed and chopped) and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant and then add in your bunch of rabe, with a little salt and pepper. Sauté the rabe until slightly wilted, yet still a vibrant green (2-3 minutes). The amounts of the ingredients can be varied, just base it on your own personal tastes.

Simple, easy, fast, and very delicious!

If you prefer to get a little fancy with it, you can add rabe to your favorite frittata or vegetable soup recipes. If you find rabe is too bitter, even with cooking it, just blanch or boil the rabe for a minute or two before sautéing or adding to your other recipes.

Whether this is the first time you have heard of broccoli rabe or it’s an old family favorite, I hope you will add it to your next meal and into your garden. This little green powerhouse is unique, flavorful, nutritious, and a pleasing addition to any meal or backyard garden.

Plants Database. Natural Resource Conservation Service. US Department of Agriculture. https://plants.usda.gov/java/ClassificationServlet?source=display&classid=BRASS2

Choose My Plate.gov. October 5, 2016. US Department of Agriculture. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tools-supertracker

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