Spicy, zesty broccoli rabe is one of the favorite Mediterranean greens commonly featuring in Italian and French cuisine. The greens recognized as rapini, raab, turnip rabe, Rapa, rapine, Italian or Chinese broccoli, broccoli rape, broccoli de rabe, Italian turnip, turnip broccoli, etc. It features small, broccoli-like flowering heads and large jagged turnip-like leaves.
Scientific name: Brassica rapa, cultivar ruvo group.
|Fresh broccoli raab greens. (Photo: by Naotake Murayama)|
Broccoli rabe is a cool-season crop. Well-drained, fertile, moist soil is essential for good yields. To harvest, trim its stem at ground level when the plant reaches 12 to 15 inches tall.
A completely grown-up rabe plant features broccoli-like tiny flowerheads. All parts of the rabe, stems, leaves, and flower buds are edible. Exposure to excessive daylight and high temperatures may result in flowerheads bolting.
Rabe features broad, frilly, jagged leaves with somewhat bitter, spicy, and mustard-like peppery flavor. Once baked or sautéed, however, its flavor becomes subtle, nutty, and delicious.
Broccoli raab (rapini) is one of its own kind of versatile green-leafy vegetables. Its dark-green leaves and broccoli-like small cluster-head stems are the storehouses of many phytonutrients that have proven health-promoting and disease-preventing properties.
Rapini is one of the very low-calorie greens carrying just 22 calories per 100g of raw leaves. Nonetheless, it holds several vital minerals and vitamins like folates, and vitamin K.
100 grams of fresh leaves hold about 224 µg or about 186% of the daily requirement of vitamin K-1 (phylloquinone). Vitamin-K has been found to have a potential role in bone-strengthening function by promoting osteoblastic activity. It also has an established role in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease through limiting neuronal damage in the human brain.
As a member of Brassica family greens, raab is a rich source of antioxidants like flavonoids, indoles, sulforaphane, carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Indoles, mainly Di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane have proven benefits against prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
Frash rapini has more folic acid than mustard and turnip greens. 100 grams of fresh leaves carry 83 μg of this vitamin (about 21% of RDA). Folic acid plays a vital role in DNA synthesis and cell division. When supplemented in women during their peri-conception times it may help prevent neural tube defects in newborn babies.
Fresh raab has good levels of vitamin-C. 100 fresh leaves provide 20.2 mg (31% of RDA). Vitamin-C (ascorbic acid) is a powerful natural antioxidant that offers protection against free oxygen radicals and flu-like viral infections.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin and is essential for good night vision. Consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids is found to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Fresh broccoli rabe greens are an excellent source of several essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as pyridoxine, thiamin, riboflavin, and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and manganese.
Regular consumption of rapini greens in the diet is known to prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia and believed to offer protection from cardiovascular diseases, and colon and prostate cancers.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.49 g||2.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.7 g||7%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.210 mg||7.5%|
|Vitamin A||2622 IU||87%|
|Vitamin C||20.2 mg||34%|
|Vitamin E||1.62 mg||11%|
|Vitamin K||224 µg||186%|
|Fresh broccoli rabe greens. Photo courtesy: cbertel|
In the United States, broccoli rabe normally arrives in the markets twice a year, in the spring and during the fall. If you happened to be placed closer to its cultivation farms, buy them from local markets for extra freshness and nutrition advantages.
In the farmer markets, fresh broccoli rabe is normally bundled and put for sale in the vegetable section. Buy fresh, crispy bright green leaves featuring firm stems and compact broccoli-like cluster head florets. Avoid wilted, yellow leaf and stems bolted flowerheads.
Likewise in other greens, use broccoli rabe early in cooking. If at all to store, keep unwashed greens inside a plastic bag, and place in the vegetable compartment of a refrigerator for 1-2 days.
|Blanching Rapini greens
(Photo by : Naotake Murayama)
Fall and spring are broccoli rabe seasons in the US. To prepare, trim its stem side tough end. Rinse in cold water and swish to remove any dirt. Pat dry using a paper towel or soft cloth. Using a paring knife, cut the greens into the desired length before cooking.
The bitter taste of broccoli rabe somewhat mellowed after blanching for few minutes in boiling water. Transfer blanched greens in ice-cold water to stop its further cooking and turning it into mushy.
Broccoli rabe complements well with many ingredients ranging from vegetables, pasta, cheese, and mushroom. Prepared rabe can be enjoyed in stir-fry, sautéed, grilled, etc.
Here are some serving tips:
|Orecchiette alle cime di rapa
(Photo :by corrado forlno)
Broccoletti di rapa as the greens called inside Italy; rapini greens are one of the most sought after ingredients in the Southern Italian cuisine. Orecchiette alle cime di rapa is one of the Apulian pasta dishes.
Chopped rapini sautéed in olive oil with garlic is a traditional side dish in Europe.
Finely chopped rapini can be added in the quiche.
Broccoli raab greens contain oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some cruciferous vegetables, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. It is, therefore, individuals with known oxalate urinary stone disease advised to avoid eating vegetables belonging to Brassica/cruciferous family.
High phytate and dietary fiber content in the broccoli raab greens may interfere with the bioavailability of iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Because of its high vitamin-K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid this food since it increases the vitamin K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are often attempting to lower. It might advertently raise the effective dose of the drug.
Being a brassica family of greens rabe may also contain goitrogens. Excessive amounts of goitrogens in the food may interfere with thyroid hormone production and can precipitate thyroxin hormone deficiency in individuals with thyroid dysfunction. (Medical Disclaimer.
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Refer Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk (Link opens in new window).
Cornell University-Home Gradening.