Commonly known in the United States as broccoli raab (also spelled broccoli rabe). It is truly a vegetable with many names around the world. A few of the many names are raab, rapa, rapine, rappi, rappone, fall and spring raab, turnip broccoli, taitcat, Italian or Chinese broccoli, broccoli rape, broccoli de rabe, Italian turnip, and turnip broccoli.
Photo courtesy of Mariquita Farm. Be sure and check out their farm website.
Originating in the Mediterranean and also China, it is actually a descendant from a wild herb. Today, Rapini is found growing in California, Arizona, New Jersey, Quebec and Ontario. It is one of the most popular vegetables among the Chinese. It is probably the most popular vegetable in Hong Kong and also widely used in the western world.
Although it has broccoli’s name, broccoli raab is not related to broccoli. It is, however, closely related to turnips which is probably why the leaves look like turnip greens. Lots of broccoli-like buds appear here and there but a head never forms. It is grown as much for its long-standing, tasty mustard-like tops as for their multiple small florets with clusters of broccoli-like buds. Good-quality broccoli raab will have bright-green leaves that are crisp, upright, and not wilted. Avoid ones with leaves that are wilted, yellowing, or have dark green patches of slime.
Used extensively in Italian and Chinese cooking, it is not as popular in the United States but is gaining popularity. The stems are generally uniform in size (hence cook evenly) and need not be peeled. Clean it as you would other greens, removing the bottom portion of the stems which appear tough (sometimes the stems are tougher than other times depending on the age of the rapini). They stems can be removed up to where the leaves begin, and sauted before adding the leaves to the pan. This vegetable is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium . Rapini is available all year long, but its peak season is from fall to spring. To maintain crispness, refrigerate, unwashed, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag or wrap for up to 3 days.
How To Cook Broccoli Raab/Rapini:
The leaves, stems, and flower heads are cooked (broil, stir-fry, braise, saute, or steam) and eaten just like regular broccoli and have a flavor similar to broccoli but much more pungent. It is quite tasty with a nutty flavor and has a slightly bitter taste. Some say it is aggressively pungent and bitter. In spite of its uniqueness, broccoli raab is considered an acquired taste – but once acquired, it is addictive! Preparing it is very easy:
Rinse with cold water and trim 1/4-inch from bottom of stems.
Cut stalks crosswise into 2-inch pieces and drop them into salted (optional), boiling water.
Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and remove with slotted spoon.
Saute the blanched broccoli raab/rapini in a little olive oil and as much garlic as you like for 3 to 5 minutes until tender. Optional – Add a few dried red pepper flakes.
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