Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Getting Down to the Brassicas

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I don’t know why it took me so long to find out about eating the flowers and stems of various brassicas, but they are a delicious way to pass the time until asparagus becomes available. I have heard of and enjoyed broccoli rabe but there is a whole world out there in this enormous genus of plants in the mustard family. This week at the Farmers Market, Nash’s Organic Produce had red and green cabbage raab, lacinato kale raab, flowering mustard raab and arugula raab. (Raab is Nash’s spelling, I’ve also seen rabe).

Brassicas, valued not only for their nutritional value, are thought to detoxify carcinogens and are useful in many forms. Almost all parts (stems, roots, flowers, leaves and seeds) of many species can be used as food. My favorites are red and green cabbage, although all types are worth a try. Broccoli rabe stems can be bitter, but the cabbage raabs can be chopped up and the entire thing eaten raw – no problem. They are crunchy and much sweeter than you would imagine. You can also cook them lightly, add meat or not, serve as a side-dish or over a bed of rice or farro as a main dish.

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Here is an easy recipe…

To make this simple dish, I started by cutting a slice of shoulder bacon from Wooly Pigs into small cubes and sauteing with 3 or 4 chopped garlic cloves in a frying pan. Cook very lightly until the bacon just starts to brown. Remove the garlic and bacon from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

Wash and cut the woody ends off of 2 bunches of cabbage raab. I used one bunch red and one bunch green. Cut the rest of the stalk, stems and leaves, into pieces about 1″ long. I like to leave the flowers whole.

Add a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil to the frying pan at medium heat. Saute the raab in the oil for a few minutes until it is well coated. Put a lid on the pan and let it all wilt and cook for a few minutes more.

Remove the lid and give it a taste. If it is tender, remove it from the heat. It shouldn’t require much cooking and will continue to cook as long as the lid is on. Stir in the bacon and garlic. Top off with a little salt & pepper and you are ready to enjoy this early spring treat.

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5 Responses »

  1. An alternative: We have several plants in the garden that are now flowering: broccoli, various kales, brussel sprouts, cabbage, arugula, mizuna. This is a great time of year to ‘graze’ in the garden. I don’t have to bend over as the flower heads really are ‘shoots’, shooting for the sky as the plant bolts. Just pick and eat. They never make it to the table. Or if grazing doesn’t get them all, cook like you suggested, and throw in a frittata.

  2. Thanks for the tip! I saw the raab at Nash’s this weekend and was just about beside myself. I’ve been throwing out the flower stems from our overwintered collards and kale, assuming they would be bitter. Good to know just how edible they are.

  3. Good to know! I’ve been topping our kale in a mad effort to prolong the winter batch until our spring planting is ready, but composting the florets. I’ll try stir-frying ’em up instead tonight.

  4. For Bob Weeks and anyone who might assist me to grow raab.

    After visiting the WS Market this past 4-26 and buying two varieties of raab, I was delighted by their flavors in the raw state and slightly cooked with olive oil and garlic.

    Bob W. would you might helping this west seattle novice gardener with a lead for seeds or plants for Raabs to grow?

    Thanks all.

  5. Marke,
    I have not purchased raab seeds for a couple of years but in the past I have been able to find them at the West Seattle Nursery or True Value Hardware. Territorial Seeds has a few varieties, Zamboni and Sorento. You can order from their website: http://www.territorialseed.com/prod_detail_list/s.
    They are quite easy to grow. They take about six weeks, or more in the colder months, and you can plant the seed most any month except in the heart of winter. My main mistakes have been to plant seed too close, and then to not notice that they are ready to eat. Best to thin to maybe 3 inches apart (eat the thinnings!) They sprout fast, and bolt fast. I would not buy raab plants because they are so easy to start from seed, and if they have been in the pot too long they will sprout before they get very large.
    Right now I am eating flowerettes from kale that has over-wintered and is bolting, that look and taste a lot like raab. There is a lot of it and it keeps coming for several weeks. Delicious.
    You might ask what kind of seed the vender you bought the raab from was using.
    Have fun! If you don’t have the Tilth Garden Guide, I highly recommend it. PCC carries it. It has month by month suggestions on what to plant etc.