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.
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.