The tender flowering stalks of overwintered brassicas (kale, bok choy, mustards, cabbage, collards, arugula, turnip, etc.) can be eaten just like broccoli and are such a special fleeting spring treat! Sometimes the florets open showing 4-petaled yellow or white edible flowers.
Flavor profile: Basically, every raab tastes like the plant that it is, but as if it were crossed with broccoli, because that is the flowering stalk of brassicas that we’re used to eating. Kale raab will taste like broccoli and kale; bok choy raab will be tender and sweet like bok choy and broccoli; mizuna mustard raab will be peppery and taste like a mix between mustard and broccoli.
Uses: Raab can be roasted or sautéed whole and eaten just like asparagus, or it can be chopped up and added into any breakfast scramble, stir-fry, etc. The florets hold cooking juices just like broccoli, the stems are sweet and tender, and the leaves get crispy like a kale chip!
Pairs with: Garlic, eggs, cheese, potatoes, pasta, rice, etc.
Storage: Store your raab in a fairly airtight container or plastic bag to retain moisture. Raab doesn’t have a super long shelf life, so you’ll want to eat it within a few days to a week at the most. NOTE: Raab will be more tender at the beginning of the spring season, and once the little florets actually start to open you’ll notice the bottom of the raab stalk gets a little woodier.
Other names: I say raab, you say rapini! In general, these terms are used interchangeably to refer to the flowering stalks of brassicas. Raab is also sometimes spelled Rabe. Many of our brassica friends who do overwinter and flower in the spring share the same base Latin name, which is Brassica rapa, thus raab.
Nutrients: All raab is highly nutritious because these precious flowering stalks are the plant’s final priority. They are putting all their nutrients into these flowering stalks that would become seed (highly nutrient dense) if we didn’t eat them first. Each particular variety of raab varies in its nutrient composition, but in general raab is high in fiber, vitamin C, iron, and potassium.
History: As long as there has been broccoli, kale, bok choy, and all their other brassica cousins, they’ve all been flowering in the spring to finish their lifecycle and humans have enjoyed those flowering stalks. Raab has become more popularized in the United States in the last decade as a specialty spring crop.
Why it's a great crop: Raab is the last crop you get out of your field of overwintered greens that you’ve already been harvesting from all season, often blossoming into a gorgeous sea of yellow flowers. It is the gift of spring for both eaters and farmers, and is a great way to get another entire harvest from your fields. Even if your kale patch was stunted and didn’t produce much greens, they’ll still flower in the spring and have raab available to harvest.