grow, marvel, eat, laugh, persevere

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Harvesting Rapini (Broccoli Raab)

This was my first time growing Rapini. I fell in love with it when I tried it for the first time at my favorite Italian restaurant, La Piazza . It has since been moved and renamed Gaetano's after a long terrible feud between the property owner and the chef, but they make their own bread and pasta fresh at the restaurant so if you are ever in Forest Park, IL be sure to visit them. When the chef came over to our table he gave such a romantic description of it that we had to try it.

The heads on this broccoli are really small compared to the standard ones so when I woke up this morning to yellow flowers I looked it up and was really shocked to learn that this is as big as they get."To harvest, cut the budding shoots just before the flowers open. Harvest until shoots are too small and tough." Uh - I'm late. Here's what the tops look like. Now that you've seen what the opening flowers look like you can take a second look at the first photo and see that they are about to open any second. I hope they'll hold on until the morning so that I can harvest a few for dinner.
The Rapini plant has really pretty soft leaves and it's not nearly as big as the standard broccoli I grew last year.

Full frontal view.
Did I mention I have no idea how to cook this stuff? Anybody got any great Rapini recipes?


  1. I have no idea how you're "supposed" to cook them... but when in doubt, if it looks like it would cook like greens, I saute it in garlic and olive oil. *grin*

    I might have to try these next year. Looks like they would be good to grow early and harvest just as you need to make room for tomatoes and such--true?

  2. holy crap, that's awesome! Is it a perennial plant or an annual you bought or did you plant it from seed? I can't believe you're ready to harvest already. Awesome

  3. This is interesting, I've never grown broccolli before it's a very pretty plant.

  4. I usually saute them in olive oil and garlic, but you can use it in soups or any recipe that asks for spinach. By the way, you can eat them after the flowers are open too they have a sweet "flowery" taste.

  5. I'm growing some, too - and the hot weather made them bolt!

    This is also my first time growing rapini -- and I cooked some for the first time tonight. Make sure you don't cook the harder, woody stems - the slender stems cook up ok, and the leaves are great! I think I'll use more leaves and fewer stems next time.

    I've read a couple different opinions -- you can cut the rapini all the way to the ground and another plant will come up -- or cut off what you need and more will keep growing.

    I'm going to start more seedlings -- 4 plants is not going to be enough.

    To cook it this evening, I cut up the stems into 1" pieces and sliced the leaves into 1/2" strips, leaving about 2-3" chunks with the flowers (totally edible). I sauteed up some thinly sliced garlic with the rapini, and added a cup of water once they got bright green and started to wilt. I added some chili flakes and put the lid on to cook down the water.

    Next I added some julienned sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, salt & pepper, let them soften and added a splash more water. Then a bit more olive oil and some pine nuts -- cook until soft, toss with some orecchiete. Yum.

  6. Well, I'm going to have to try rapini next year. I attempted broccoli this year, and it was awful. I have huge plants, and they don't appear to be even trying on the flower-producing front. We've started yanking them out because the tomatoes need room now. Your rapini looks like a much smaller plant in general though. Maybe that will work better. How many did you plant to get a good harvest?

    j-dog: It's an annual, like a small broccoli. Tastes about the same, but the texture is softer.

  7. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, put rapini in for a couple of minutes until soft. Dump out water, add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a squirt or two of lemon juice. Cook for maybe a minute. Add pepper, and eat. This is hands-down my favorite veggie, maybe favorite food (and I'm definitely not a vegetarian).

  8. I always blanch mine with a little salt in the water (just a few minutes-3 or4), follow with an ice bath to "shock" (this keeps them nice and green) then I toss with a little oil, salt and pepper and broil to get a nice color. They can stand to get some darkness on them. They taste tender and grilled this way. I like "Anonymous'" addition of lemon juice, too. Adds a brightness and fresh acidity. Just a squeeze before serving...

  9. P.S. Grill after blanching... for BBQ's. Oh and I'm actually looking up tips on growing mine. The starts are growing rather aggressively! Did you start yours from seed? Starts or straight into the dirt?

  10. Patti - I started mine indoors from seed. Thanks for visiting!

  11. Mark Bittman had a good recipe on the NY Times for Broccoli Rabe this a few weeks ago so we tried some out from the store. Now I've just ordered seeds and I'm looking forward to growing it this year. I'm going to try both a spring and fall planting to see what works better.

    I'm glad to see how it looked in your garden.

  12. Rapini is my favourite vegetable. I work as a chef in a restaurant here in Toronto, unfortunately the owner dislikes rapini and since he signs the cheques, I'll just enjoy it at home. My favourite way is to dunk it into generously salted water (think the ocean) for 45 seconds to a minute, strain and sautee in olive oil and garlic. Or, instead, after you blanch it, plunge it into cold water and bbq, toss in some extra virgin, garlic and perhaps some lemon zest.

  13. I just made a bunch last night. It's in season and at Whole Foods in abundance. I also have about 15 plants in the ground which we germinated from seed. Rapini are actually members of the turnip, rather than broccoli, family.

    The first time I cooked I sauteed in olive oil with gralic and a good dose of red pepper flakes. It was fantastic. Super flavorful! Last night I blanched first and did the ice bath. I then sauteed per the previous way. While the color was indeed bright green and pretty, the flavor wasn't nearly as robust as teh first time. Next time straight into the oil!

  14. I'm also growing rapini for the first time and found this blog looking for information about how many buds I can expect before it starts to bolt - it looks like the varying weather here in the SF Bay Area has maybe caused it to bolt instead of grow. I'm glad to find it!

    I'm growing rapini with red mustard greens, red chard, chiaggio beets, garlic (purely for spring garlic) and zucchini, all in a square foot gardening plot. I've also read conflicting opinions about trimming rapini buds and so I'm trying that, especially trimming off the bolting heads to see if the undeveloped heads will grow further. I planted rather thickly so that I could eat the culls - this recipe uses everything I listed above, in whatever quantities I happen to take that day.

    Cull or trim from all of the above, and take the aged flowers from the zucchini.

    Rinse - I don't bother trimming roots off anything but the spring garlic.

    Slice the entire garlic thinly, along with any beet roots big enough to need longer cooking than greens. Saute the garlic on low heat in some olive oil and a dab of good bacon grease.

    When the garlic starts to look heated through, add the beet roots. Now chop all the greens coarsely.

    When the garlic is pretty soft, add the greens. Stir and wilt.

    Make a space in the middle and crack a couple of eggs into the pan, breaking the yolk, set the eggs slightly then gently stir the greens into the egg to make a sort of frittata. Grind a bit of black pepper over it. Make a little space at the edges and add the squash blossoms.

    Gently stir the greens around a bit and wait for the eggs to cook. After the squash blossoms become translucent fold them in. Stir intermittently but not too vigorously or the eggs will crumble, and cook until the eggs are set as you like them.

    Salt to taste.

  15. My rapini bolted last year and is starting to do the same again this year. However, I have a fantastic kale crop and the kale 'buds' look almost identical. A friend and I did a side by side taste test and found they tasted pretty much the same. Kale is easier to grow for me and significantly more prolific. So I'm giving up on rapini and will enjoy all that kale has to offer going forward. Gardening in Victoria BC.