Make room for a row or two of broccoli raab in your vegetable garden: these greens are easy, pretty, and delicious.
Broccoli raab (also known as broccolini, broccoli rabe, and cima di rapa) is grown for its frilly green leaves and for the small broccoli-like heads that develop on the tender stalks. Looks definitely are deceiving: this cool-season plant is not actually broccoli, but a brassica, in the mustard and turnip family. It tastes tangy, a little nutty, and slightly bitter, and like all greens it is a colorful and versatile crop. In the New York Times, Mark Bittman called broccoli raab “near perfect as a side dish” when sauteed in olive oil with a little lemon and garlic. Tender young leaves taste great in salads; it is also delicious on pizza and in pasta dishes.
Sow seeds directly in a sunny spot in the garden in the cool days of early spring. Seeds germinate in four to seven days and produce a crop in 30-50 days. Thin the plants to about four inches apart by snipping off leaves for a salad or stir-fry, and let the remaining plants grow to 18-24 inches tall. The crop is mature just before flower buds open, but if you miss it by a day or two and the little yellow flowers come into bloom, clip them off and toss them into a salad.
Where summers are cool, sow seeds every couple of weeks for a harvest all summer long. In hot-summer areas, save some seeds to plant again in late summer or early fall. Seeds germinate quickly when the ground is warm, and the plants will tolerate a light frost, so you’re likely to still be harvesting garden-fresh broccoli raab even after you make the switch from shirtsleeves to a sweater.