How to Grow Broccoli Raab or Rapini
Rapini or Broccoli Raab, a Forgotten Delicacy
No matter what you call it - rapini, broccoli rabe, broccoli raab, or one of its dozens of other names - this spicy early spring green vegetable is a forgotten Italian delicacy. Grown in Sicily and southern Italy, it pairs well with beans and pasta and is so simple and quick to cook that once you cook up your first pot of it you'll be eager for more. It's tough to find in supermarkets too, making it a good green to grow for gourmet or specialty markets, Farmer's Markets and the like if you are growing organic vegetables to sell. It's chock full of vitamins and provides more than your daily needs for vitamins A and K, as well as plenty of calcium, iron and other minerals and vitamins. Are you ready to grow broccoli rabe? All you need is seeds, sun, soil, water and time.
Growing Broccoli Raab
Broccoli rabe is best started from seeds sown directly into the garden soil once it can be worked in the spring. I have successfully grown it in temperate zones 6 and 7 and suspect it can be grown anywhere from zones 5 through 8 easily. Seeds are getting difficult to find, but both the online catalog for Burpee and Harris Seeds carries them, as well as some specialty Italian vegetable seed catalogs. Expect to pay about $2.50 for 50 seeds, but you would pay that much for one bunch in the store!
Broccoli rabe needs the following growing conditions:
- Sunlight: Full sunlight is best, but it will tolerate some light afternoon shade
- Soil: Any good garden soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5 is fine.
- Water: Average water needs
- Temperature: Seeds need temperatures around 50-60 degrees to germinate, and the plants do best with cool temperatures in the 60s and 70s. If it gets any warmer, they start to flower and then the plant is finished.
Once the seeds germinate, there's nothing else you need to do except make sure the plants are watered and covered if a frost is threatened. Allow them to grow for 4-6 weeks. When you start to see the tiny "broccoli" florets appear on the plants, you can harvest and enjoy them.
Italian Recipes for Rapini
Broccoli raab or rapini tastes like bitter greens such as mustard greens but with tiny broccoli florets. That might not be everyone's taste, but if you love the taste of greens, you'll love rapini. Like greens, they pair well with beans and strong flavors such as hot pepper flakes and garlic. A favorite pairing in Italian recipes is broccoli rabe or other bitter greens, pasta, and white beans. Another great pairing is chicken with broccoli rabe and pasta.
Cooking Rapini - Italian Recipes
Broccoli raab is what I like to call "peasant food." So-called peasant food is now a delicacy, strangely enough, and broccoli rabe or rapini is classified as a gourmet green. If you grow organic vegetables to sell at a Farmer's Market, broccoli raab makes an excellent addition to the gourmet greens you offer. Be sure to share a list of cookbooks such as Clara's Kitchen by Clara Cannucciari and other easy recipe books for Italian recipes.
Broccoli rabe is so nutritious and easy to grow it deserves a place in your early spring garden bed. It's easy to grow organically, takes up little space, and provides an ample harvest. Add it to your gourmet greens offerings today.
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