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November 8, 2009 / Malcolm Dalebö

Growing Rapini

Unknown in the UK but easy to grow and loved on the continent. Rapini, also known as Broccoli Raab, is related to turnip – but produces delicious sprouts like a slightly spicy flavoured sprouting broccoli.

Its real value is a harvest in late summer and autumn when ordinary broccoli isn’t available, but is also great as a very early spring crop in a polytunnel. Thinnings are excellent in salads or stirfries.
There are two types available to us in the UK, the first is Cima Di Rapa ‘San Marzano’ (60 days from seed to harvest)
Quick growing plants that reach about 1 ft tall, making green sprouts used just like sprouting broccoli – but much quicker and easier to grow. Sow early spring under cover, or mid to late summer for harvest in 50-60 days. This is a spicy maincrop ‘broccoli’ derived from the Turnip family. Nice raw in salads or cooked.

The second variety is Cima Di Rapa (40 day strain), it is a smaller Raab that comes very, very early. Use the thinnings in salads at the start of the season, and then cooked as sprouts & leaves later on. it is a spicy first-early ‘broccoli’ derived from the Turnip family. Nice raw in salads or cooked.
Although rapini (Brassica rapa ruvo) occasionally shares a name with broccoli, it has more in common with the turnip (Brassica rapa rapifera). Its leaves resemble turnip greens, surrounding dispersed buds that resemble thin, leggy broccoli stalks.
It is believed that modern-day rapini originated as a wild herb in either China or the Mediterranean region. Today, it is extremely popular in both of those locales, and it is growing in favor in the West as well, where it is cultivated in California, Arizona, New Jersey, Mexico, and Canada.
Rapini is a cool-season crop, so the best time for home gardeners to grow it is in the autumn or early spring. Plants grown in warmer weather tend to go to seed prematurely. The plants should be harvested before the florets open. Cut the stems at ground level or just above the ground. It is possible to coax multiple cuttings from the plants if they are harvested while the weather is cool enough.
When harvesting, look for leaves that are bright green, with no wilting or yellowing. Buds should be unopened, and stalks should be crisp and fresh-looking. Although ideally rapini should be harvested or purchased right before eating, it can be stored, unwashed, in a resealable plastic bag in the crisper draw of the refrigerator for up to five days.

One serving (1/2 of a bunch, about 220 g) of cooked rapini has only 75 calories and contains vitamins A, C, and K; thiamin, riboflavin, folate, zinc, manganese, potassium, calcium, and iron; is low in saturated fat; and is a good source of fibre. It has a somewhat strong and bitter flavor, which makes it a good complement to both milder foods like pasta, polenta, and white beans, and strong flavors like garlic, chili, and anchovy.

Our own sowings are doing well out on the allotment, and we have great hopes for a new and tasty crop. The close relationship with turnips can be seen from the leaf shape and colouring.


One Comment

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  1. Luigi / May 27 2010 12:13 pm

    You should look at "seeds of italy" google it, UK based company. They stock lots of varieties of Italian seeds, and of course many types of Rapini (Cima Di Rapa). The 40 day variety is great for early season, or fast crops, but from now the 90-120 day varieties provide the best plants.

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