Broccoli Rabe is more closely related to turnips than broccoli. It gets the name because the overall shape actually resembles the latter than the former. This is a bitter green vegetable; although you may not like the flavor, there is no denying that it is one of most nutrients-packed foods available for little money. Because it is mostly known for its bitter taste, many people overlook a lot of its positive traits. Behind the overshadowing unfriendly-flavor, Broccoli Rabe has at least 10 wonders for us to enjoy.
Twice a Year
In United States, you can find Broccoli rabe mainly during spring and fall. As always, it is recommended to purchase the vegetables from local markets as they are likely fresh and harvested from nearby cultivation farms that you know. If you happen to live close to such farms, you have access to healthier and better version of Broccoli Rabe than those in the big cities. In a big market, this vegetable is often sold in bundle with other foods. Wrap it in plastic and keep it inside a refrigerator. Do not store Broccoli Rabe more than 5 days or it will become useless.
Another good thing is that all parts of Broccoli Rabe are edible including leaves, stems, and flowerbuds. Excessive exposure to high temperatures and daylight can result in bolting of flower heads.
Broccoli Rabe grows best during cool season. Moisture, fertile, yet well drained soil improves the chance for good yield. As soon as the plant reaches about 12 inches tall, its stem is trimmed at ground level. When completely grown-up, this plant has broccoli-like flower heads.
Vitamins and Minerals
Many different varieties of leafy greens are often marketed as “the healthiest”. Some even claim to be “superfoods”, but Broccoli Rabe is probably the only one that can live up to the moniker. It has high concentration of calcium, dietary fiber, iron, potassium, as well as vitamins C, A, K, and essential B complex. With that kind of properties, the vegetable should provide a lot of variants of all nutrients we need for an entire day.
In every 100 grams of Broccoli Rabe leaves, there are only about 22 calories. However, it has great amount of nutrients at the same volume including vitamin K and folates. In 100 grams of leaves, you get about 185% of daily requirement of vitamin K. It makes sure you get enough osteotrophic activities in the bone to promote strength and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, its vitamin K contents make it a little bit dangerous for people who take anticoagulants medicines such as warfarin. Those medicines are considered vitamin K antagonist.
Flavor is not always or the only factor to determine whether a food is good or bad for you. Despite its bitter flavor, Broccoli Rabe contains a naturally occurring carotenoid called lutein. It is an antioxidant that helps protect your retinas from free radicals. Lutein is a photoprotectant for retina from the bad effects of free radicals produced by blue lights.
Broccoli Rabe is an excellent source of vitamin A, similar to mustard green. In every 100 grams, it contains 87% of RDA of vitamin A. You need this vitamin to maintain good eyesight and as natural anti-aging agent. From 100 grams of Broccoli Rabe leaves, you get 31% of RDA of vitamin C. When combined with other foods and beverage (such as orange or lemon juice), there are more than enough to prevent you from taking supplements. Vitamin C is powerful antioxidant that protects you from bad effects of free radicals such as signs of premature aging. Essential B complex group of vitamins are available from fresh Broccoli Rabe as well. It contains thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, and minerals including magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, and selenium.
Compared to turnip greens and mustard, Broccoli Rabe has more folic acid. Every 100 grams of its leaves contains about 21% RDA of folic acid. When consumed or supplemented in women during pre-conception time, folic acid prevents neural tube defects in their newborn babies. Folic acid also has important role in cell division and DNA synthesis.
Best Served Sautéed
The leaves are broad, jagged and frilly. It is bitter, spicy, and the same time has mustard like-peppery flavor. Sautéed leaves are less bitter; in fact, the flavor becomes nutty and actually delicious.
The stems are like storage houses for many of its phytonutrients. The leaves have deep green color. Phytonutrients are believed to be beneficial for general health for human, weight-loss, and prevent various diseases.
Regular consumption of broccoli Rabe prevents arthritis, iron deficiency, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. High amount of dietary fiber and phytate in the vegetables may interfere with magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Despite its impressive nutrient facts, Broccoli Rabe is not actually popular in the United States. In fact, this vegetable is mostly used as animal fodder. The Italians know this food better than anybody else, and they can cook it in many different ways such as steaming, frying, and braising. Broccoli Rabe is also commonly used in salad and soup.
Broccoli Rabe has a lot of varieties too such as Quarantina (ready for harvest in 40 days), Sessantina (ready for harvest in 60 days), and Novantina (ready in 90 days). The numbers of days are the recommended growth time, but all variants can be trimmed as soon as the flowerbuds are formed.