Rapini

Other names: Broccoli Rabe, Broccoli di Raab, Broccoletti

Availability: August through April. Sporadic - May and July.

Source: United States.

Handling Tips: Keep cold. 32-34°F. Keep moist, okay to ice

General Information: Rapini is a leafy green vegetable that is frequently eaten in Southern Italy and has become popular in the United States. The vegetable has a slightly bitter taste and is frequently steamed or lightly sauteed in olive oil. The Rapini flower looks similar to the broccoli florets. Despite the name this plant is not a type of broccoli but it is in the same brassica family.

Rapini is an easy vegetable to pass over, but Italian and Asian cooks have long been making good use of it, and its relatives, for some time. A descendant of wild mustard, it has small, loose clusters of broccoli-like florets, jagged dark blue-green leaves and sometimes buds and flowers. It is also known by other names, including Broccoletti, Broccoli di Rape, Broccoli di Rabe, or Broccoli di Raab. Despite this name, the plant is not closely related to broccoli. It is similar to but much more bitter than Chinese broccoli.

Rapini has many spiked leaves that surround a green bud which looks very similar to a small head of broccoli. The flavor of rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, pungent, and 'an acquired taste'. Those who have acquired the taste are often heard referring to rapini as "the food of the gods".

Nutritional: Rapini is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron. One of the many health benefits of this vegetable is that it is rich in certain phytochemicals, including sulforaphane and indoles. These are chemicals which are proving to protect us against cancer.

Applications: Used extensively in Italian and Chinese cooking. Rapini has become popular in the United States.

If bitter isn't quite to your taste, then blanch the cleaned and trimmed broccoli rabe in salted boiling water for about a minute to lower its intensity.

A very simple way to cook broccoli rabe is to blanch and then saute it gently in olive oil, garlic and a little salt.

History: Once highly prized by the Romans and cultivated all over the southern Mediterranean, rapini didn't appear in North America until the 1920s, when Italian farmers brought it to the United States. For years rapoini was favored mainly in the Italian and Asian communities here. The vegetable probably descends from a wild herb, a relative of the turnip, that grew either in China or the Mediterranean region. 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.

Recipes: 2

Broccoli Rabe with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Orecchiette
Rapini Aglio Olio