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Broccoli Raab

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.

Read the next Article: All about Swiss Chard

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • If the best looking melons in the garden had little or no flavor last summer, the problem may be the variety planted. Some melon types do better in a region than others and only trial and error or an experienced local gardener or county extension agent can guide you.

    Occasionally the problem is the soil. It may lack sufficient nutrients or the pH can be too low. Dig in compost or rotted manure before planting. Melons do best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Have your soil tested and if the pH is below 6.5, amend with lime. Sometimes a lot of rain near the time of harvest will dilute the sugar in melons affecting taste. Watermelons will regain their sugars if you hold off harvesting for a few days. Cantaloupes will not.