This leafy green veggie that we call broccoli rabe in America is simply called rapini in Italy. It has a history of being long cultivated in the Mediterranean region and traditionally been popular in Italian cuisine. This vegetable with its slightly bitter taste is frequently eaten in southern Italy and it is beautifully paired with olive oil, garlic and a sprinkling of sea salt.
It was introduced to the United States in the 1920s by Italian immigrants, said to be farmers. The fun fact about broccoli rabe is that is NOT broccoli at all! Crazy I know. It is actually closely related to turnips which is why broccoli rabe leafs look familiar to turnip greens. No wonder it is a healthy ingredient, since it is an excellent source of vitamin C and contains beta-carotene and fiber! This crop (broccoli rabe a.k.a. rapini) peaks January through April and November through December. However, I have had broccoli rabe often during many seasons in Italy, mostly as a side dish but always extremely tasty.
Donna Picciocchi, Editor