Raab Rant


Every Spring I get cranky seeing the term “raab” used to describe for the immature flower stalks of cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts or collard greens. Raab derives from rapa, Italian for turnip. Actual Broccoli raab is the flowering head, aka inflorescence, of a type of turnip. It’s called rapini in Italian, and it’s another delicious member of the cabbage family Brassicaceae). Broccoli is the plural of the Italian broccolo, which means the flowering head of a cabbage. So broccoli raab literally means the flowers of the turnip.

I’d rather see the common names of the vegetables, mostly cabbage brethren, used instead. Maybe something along the lines of “collard tops.” But despite my writer’s irritation with all of the Spring “raabs” at the market, I love to eat them. Cabbage tops, brassica buds, or whatever (might as well just call them “raab” like everybody else), these immature flower buds from various cabbage relatives taste great. They’re more tender than the leaves and stalks from the same plants we’ll be eating later, so quicker cooking works well. Brussels sprout tops are really good; I like kale and collard tops, too.

I drop whole bundles (can’t seem to buy just one) into boiling, well-salted water for a couple of minutes, then fish them out with tongs and drain. While an ample pile of chopped garlic cooks in extra virgin (carefully; don’t let it brown), I’ll cut the “raab” into manageable lengths (about 2 inches), then add them to the skillet with any water left clinging. Another 10 minutes over medium heat, and the greens are ready to eat. Bump things up with a few shakes of Necton’s flor de sal with piri piri..

Not surprisingly, this same approach works perfectly with real rapini (aka broccoli raab). The greens are great on their own, but a poached or fried (in olive oil, natch) egg on top makes them a meal.