Posts Tagged Italian Veg

Broccoli Raab

Cima di Rapa, Brassica Rapa generally classified in the Ruvo Group, is a fast growing brassica closely related to turnips and oriental greens. In Italy this vegetable is called Cima di Rapa and is also known as: turnip tops, broccoletto, broccoli de rabe, sprouting turnip tops, turnip mustard or rapini. It is grown primarily for the leaves, edible stem and the small bud clusters. The taste is light and mustardy with an interesting broccoli like nutty sweetness.  These winter and spring greens are hugely popular in Northern Italy, with both gardeners and cooks. In Italy most home gardeners seem to grow it and it is the star of a number of classic Italian dishes including Orecchiete e Cima di Rapa , pasta primavera, potato and spring greens pie, otherwise the greens are simply pan fried in olive oil with a little garlic or chilli pepper to taste.

Varieties
Varieties are named by the number of days they take to mature, I’ve found varieties named 40, 60, 90 or 120.
Harvest
To harvest, simply cut the budding shoots just before the flowers open at ground level or at a level where the stem is starting to get woody. Harvest until shoots are too small and tough. If the weather remains cool, you can expect a second and possibly third cutting from each plant.
Nutrition & Use
A versatile cooking green Broccoli raab can be boiled, steamed, sautéed, or fried. It can be used in soups, stir-fries, pies or in any dish you might use other cooking greens. Like most brassicas Broccoli raab is pretty healthy stuff. Rich in vitamins and minerals particularly Vitamins A and C, iron, folate, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Cultivation
Sow in drills, lightly cover with soil and keep well watered then thin to ideal spacing as they grow. Best suited to the cooler months and in my garden it grows well undercover from a November sowing, or from an autumn or early spring sowing outdoors.
Season & Temperature In Italy Cima di Rapa is considered a late winter and early spring vegetable.
Sow Jul-Oct

Sow Undercover November

Harvest Nov-March
Spacing Rows 25-30cm apart, plants 10-15cm apart in the row.
Crops in 5-6 weeks 40-120 days depending on the variety.

Seed Life

More info
Growing Rapini

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Kale, Black Tuscan

Kale, Borecole or Colwort,  Brassica oleracea var. acephala
Cruciferae [Brassicaceae] commonly known as the mustard family

A Lacinated kale also referred to as Nero di Toscano, Cavolo Nero, palm or dinosaur kale. This is one of my all time favourite winter greens and to my mind one of the best winter greens you can grow. A hardy plant that, like most Kales, produces lush leaves during the cooler months, growing sweeter after frosts. The leaves of this variety are long and blistered, with the crinkled edges turning inward. The leaves are a dark green that get darker, almost black, the colder it gets.

Nero di Toscana Precoce in December sun 2009

Origin Kales are non heading cabbages and one of the oldest forms of cultivated brassica. It is often described as primitive possibly because it is little changed and most closely related to the wild brassica ancestor whose origins appear to be the eastern Mediterranean regions. It is thought to have been used as a food crop as early as 2000 B.C and known to have been cultivated in Europe, by the early Greeks and later Romans, and then spread to other parts of the World. Today Kales represent a species of leafy greens with a great deal of diversity. This variety is from Italy where it was developed in Tuscany, probably during the 18th century. Vilmorin in 1885 describes the Italian Cavolo Nero as being similar if not the same as a variety known as Chou Palmier (palm cabbage) grown in France at that time, but described as tall and not going to flower until its third year.
Propagation Sow in a seed bed in mid to late spring and plant out in summer 6-8 weeks later. Choose a cloudy or rainy day or provide temporary shade for the first week, if the weather is hot, to give the young plants a chance to settle. Plant deeply right up to the first leaves to provide good support. Plant in rows or blocks at a spacing of 30-45cm apart for large plants or 20cm for smaller ones. Care hoe between plants and provide ground cover with an organic mulch to retain moisture and liquid feed in spring to encourage fresh growth. Note I’ve grown this Kale here for the last 5 years and some years it performs much better than others probably to do with the dry heat but it is most badly affected by delaying planting out (I’ve sometimes delayed  more than a whole month waiting for a dull day to transplant but I think it is better to plant out even when conditions are not good and provide shade and moisture than delay and leave it in the seedbed too long, this years Kale did not get planted until mid September and it is pretty stunted). I would generally aim to get winter brassicas planted in July and certainly before mid August. For those in cooler climates this kale should do very well.

Crop These kales are hardy up to at least minus 10c (15F) and stand a long time ready to crop, over 5 months in my garden, from late Autumn right through heavy winters to early spring. Harvestingdiscard any older yellowing leaves (these won’t taste good) and pick leaves as needed by pulling downwards against the  stem. Flower spikes are sent up in spring and, if caught at the right moment, make delicious spring sprouting-broccoli-like greens.

In the Kitchen
Absolutely delicious simply steamed, pan fried with garlic, or boiled then seasoned with butter. It is a versatile green and can be added to soups such as Ribollita or cooked in sauces such as Indonesian pepper sauce. People often advocate eating this kale raw, but personally I don’t like it. I think its flavour is enhanced by brief cooking, as little as 3 minutes in a wok or pan of hot water makes all the difference, just until the green intensifies.

Further Reading
Kale: The Phytonutrient Master

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