Broccoli Rabe goes by many names. We also see it labeled rapini, raab, and brocoletti. Brocoletti is the shortened form of the Italian “brocoletti di rape,” which translates to “little stalks of turnip.” It is a winter staple in Italy. Although the name connotes the image of being related to broccoli, rabe is actually a wild relative of the turnip.
Broccoli rabe has its origins in Central Asia and the Mediterranean. It is a member of the brassica family of cruciferous vegetables along with Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, turnips, and kohlrabi. These plants are powerhouses of nutrients. They are high in disease preventing indoles, suloforaphanes, and flavonoids. Indoles inhibit excessive estrogen in the body. Sulforaphanes are nature’s anti-biotics and help to ward off pathogens. Flavonoids are antioxidants, which help slow the aging process and prevent many diseases.
In Asian philosophy, the bright green color of this plant would support the liver and cleanse the blood. The pungent, warming qualities are said to benefit cold, damp conditions in the body, especially in the lungs. These qualities are applied when working through such conditions as sinus problems, bronchial congestion and cough.
A one cup serving of rabe contains a low 28 calories. This is an ideal nutrient-dense, calorie poor food. A serving also contains 3 grams protein, almost 4000 units of vitamin A, 292mg of bone supportive vitamin K, 2.4 grams of fiber, vitamin C, and eye antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Broccoli rabe is usually sautéed in olive oil with some garlic, making a delicious basic side dish that can be embellished with nuts and spices. It can be added to soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, and rice dishes. If less bitterness is preferred, it can be lightly blanched before sautéing or steaming. All parts of the plant are edible, the flowers, leaves, and stalks.
Broccoli rabe is best used as soon as possible after harvesting. It can be kept up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Like other crucifers, rabe peaks from the fall to spring seasons. Nature’s wisdom endows us with these wonderful immune boosters when we need them the most. Prepare now for the cold and flu season with the freshest delights from our Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. Add some broccoli rabe to your shopping and dining experience.