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Rapini produces tender stems and medium sized spiked leafy greens that surround clusters of small florets, which resemble tiny broccoli heads. The Rapini flowers sprout from the mature stems when the plant bolts in the warmth of mid to late spring. The blossoms have four yellow petals and appear in small clusters. Their scent is very mild and has more of a vegetal aroma rather than floral. Rapini flowers have a flavor reminiscent of broccoli, with a mild bite of pepper and mustard, and a sweet honey-like finish. The fully opened blossoms are very soft, but the tighter newly opened buds offer a pleasant texture that pops.
Rapini flowers are available in the spring.
Rapini is a subspecies of Brassica rapa and is commonly known as Broccoli Rabe, Broccoli Raab, Broccoli Rape, Broccoli de Rabe, Italian Turnip, Turnip Broccoli and Italian or Chinese Broccoli. As a member of the Brassiceae family, its flowers share the distinctive “cross” shape, which is where the family gets its other name, Cruciferae. Like broccoli, the green Rapini florets can be considered flowers themselves, each a cluster of green buds that will eventually open to reveal small yellow blossoms. Rapini is naturally a biennial, but it is mainly grown as a cool weather annual, providing flowers each spring when the temperatures rise.
Rapini flowers are commonly found amongst the still closed buds of the green florets. They may be removed and eaten raw by themselves or used with the tender stalks and florets as a salad or in a pesto. Blossoms may also be lightly cooked on the stalk, but are fragile and will begin to wilt. Barely opened buds with just a touch of the yellow petals emerging are sturdier and can stand up to more heat. Their peppery bite balances the richness of cheese and smoked meats, and adds spice to green salads. Rapini flowers pair with Parmesan cheese, poultry, sausage, garlic, lemon, prosciutto, onion, almonds, oregano, red pepper flakes, anchovies, capers, pasta and Italian and Chinese cuisines.
Rapini is a descendant of a wild herb that once grew near Sicily and southern Italy, where it is also known as Cime di Rapa, Rapi, or Rapini. Though the name may suggest that Rapini is a variety of broccoli, it is actually more closely related to the present day turnip. It is a cool weather crop that is grown world-wide with abundance in Italian and Chinese cuisine. Rapini prefers full sun and moderate moisture with well-draining soils. The flowers mature within 6-8 weeks of sowing and appear quicker in climates with hotter weather.
People have spotted Rapini Flowers using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
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