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What is Broccoli Raab?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Broccoli raab is a leafy green in the turnip family. It is also known as Brassica rapa, or broccoli rabe, rapini, rape, and rapa. The plant is cultivated for its tender stalks, florets, and leaves, all of which can be eaten. The bitter, intense flavor is very popular in Italy and many parts of Asia. Many produce markets stock this green, and it can also be grown at home relatively easily.

Although “broccoli” is in the name of the plant, broccoli raab is not actually a broccoli, although it is related to it, along with mustard greens. Like other plants in the Brassicaceae group, it has a strong, peppery bite, dark leafy greens, and stalks that are tender, turning woody with age. It can be cooked in any number of ways and also eaten raw, and it is typically harvested young, before it turns too bitter. The plant is also cultivated primarily for its leaves and flowers, rather than the florets, which do not grow to be very large.

Some cooks think of the plant as a wilder cousin of broccoli, and it does indeed have a rather disheveled appearance. Small, loose florets are tucked between large leaves, and taller flower stalks protrude from the plant. All of these parts are edible, and some consumers greatly enjoy the peppery flower stalks in particular. The plant is rich in calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C, making it an excellent inclusion in a balanced diet, along with other dark green leafy vegetables.

The exact origins of broccoli raab are unclear, since the plant grows wild in Italy and Asia, and it is cultivated all over the world. Italians use it in a wide range of dishes, sometimes with other bitter greens like arugula, as do many Asian nations. Outside of these regions, the vegetable is not quite as popular, since some consumers find the bitterness too overwhelming. The plant is used as animal fodder rather than human food in some areas, in fact.

The plant prefers cool to temperate weather, and will not grow well in warm climates. It also matures relatively quickly, and some gardeners may be able to get multiple crops in one year by rotating their planting. Gardeners can plant seeds or seedlings in soil enriched with compost, keeping the plants moist but not overwhelming them with water, and they should plan on harvesting the broccoli raab in three to four weeks.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon324708 — On Mar 12, 2013

Broccoli raapenni leaves are the best to eat.

By drtroubles — On Sep 01, 2011

Broccoli raab is definitely something you should add to your diet if you are looking to be healthier and are looking for something with cancer-fighting benefits.

Apparently broccoli raab is a great thing to eat if you need to boost your overall vitamin intake, because it contains something like half of your daily requirements for vitamins A and C. That is pretty impressive for a leafy vegetable.

If you have trouble stomaching broccoli raab's bitter taste, you can try shocking it. Just blanch it in hot water then dip it in ice cold water. This should make its taste more neutral.

By wander — On Sep 01, 2011

If you have a chance of traveling through Asia there is indeed a good chance that you will come across broccoli raab in one of your dishes. I actually have come to like broccoli raab, although only when it is well cooked.

I find that boiled broccoli raab really helps to get rid some of its bitterness, making it easier to eat. Usually I end up putting it in a stir-fry after I've boiled it if I need some more color.

A good way to stir-fry broccoli raab is with some ginger and garlic in a bit of canola oil. Of course you can add any additional meats or vegetables that you like.

By gravois — On Aug 31, 2011

I have traveled extensively in Italy and have had some amazing dishes incorporating broccoli raab. Whether it be the leaves or the floret's or some piece in between, this delicious and versatile vegetable pairs beautifully with the traditional flavors of Italy.

The bitterness of the leaves is a perfect compliment to the sweet juiciness of tomatoes and the florets are delicious when covered in garlic and olive oil. I have also had broccoli raab incorporated into pastas with cream sauce and also into some amazing salads. I love Italian food and I especially love that they use unusual ingredients like broccoli rabb and elevate them to new levels.

By tigers88 — On Aug 30, 2011

I live in the Northwest and I have been growing broccoli raab in my garden for years. As near as I can tell we have the perfect soil and climate for it. If I plan carefully I can get several full crops of broccoli raab in a single year. I can't really say this about any other plant in my garden. It has gotten to the point that I expect to eat broccoli raab all year long because it shows up so often on my dinner table and trust me, I'm not complaining.

By truman12 — On Aug 30, 2011

In the summertime I love to make mixed green salads that have the leaves of broccoli raab in them. I usually combine them with whatever other greens I can find but I'm always careful to watch the bitterness. You really have to pair broccoli raab with mellower greens or risk having a salad that is impossibly bitter.

I like to toss the greens with red onion, some shaved radish and thick pieces of carrot for crunch. I dress it with a simple vinaigrette. I love this salad for its bright bold flavors and the wonderful fresh taste you get. I've tried making a version without the broccoli raab but this is really the key ingredient.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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