If you’re after a quick growing, tasty crop to fill a few gaps in the plot, then allow us to introduce you to broccoli raab.*
Although related to the humble turnip, broccoli raab is more like its broccoli namesakes, particularly the purple sprouting kind, but you don’t have to wait through winter for a harvest. It goes from sowing to picking in under eight weeks**. Like PSB, the veg is ready when the flower buds amass at the top of the stalk, which are whipped off along with the neighbouring thicket of leaves (don’t snip off the small shoots towards the base of the plant as these might well flourish for a second picking).
It’s also very quick to cook, with a healthy green flavour similar to PSB but with a slightly more bitter, mustardy bite. I like mine quickly steamed for a minute, served salty and spiced with chilli as a side dish, or spread out on a pizza with egg and anchovies.
For best growing results it tends to prefer being sown either side of mid-summer and is particularly suited to an early spring sowing under fleece to ward off brassica addicted pigeons and keep the seedlings at a consistent cosy temperature. It’s also worth letting a few blooms go to seed – I’m now benefiting from a self sown harvest which, having found a few gaps in the garden, is now one of the few fresh veg filling the hungry gap.***
*Like many of our less familiar veg, a common name for English speakers has yet to be settled on. So you may also hear it referred to as broccoli rabe, rapini, cima de rapa, friarelli, broccoletti or grelos – most of which come from Italy or Portugal where it is more widely appreciated.
**As a result of its quick growing nature some folk like to call it ’60 day broccoli’. That’ll never catch on.
***The time of year when most winter veg have finished, the summer harvest has yet to begin and you start to wonder if it’s possible to live solely on rhubarb.