As I was putting Rusty to sleep tonight, I asked him what I should write about in this week’s newsletter. He was half asleep already, but he said, “um … rapini.”
What is rapini you ask? It’s the delicious edible “bolts” (i.e. flower buds/stalks) that over-wintered brassicas and cole crops produce as spring approaches. Plants like turnips, cabbage, and kale are all “biennial,” which mean that they produce flowers and seeds after going through winter. In climates where winter kills everything green, that’s the end of the story. But here in the Willamette Valley, our winters are mild enough that many of these plants will live through the cold months and then begin their reproductive cycle as the days lengthen. The technical term for this plant process is “vernalize,” which essentially means the action of spring.
Rapini comes in many shapes and sizes, varying as much as the crops that produce it. Purple cabbage produce purple rapini; turnip produces bright green shoots and yellow flowers; dinosaur kale produces a deep green flower bud that closely resembles broccolini.
You can eat all parts of the rapini — the stalk, leaves, and flower buds. We harvest it with our fingers so that we can feel for the tender point where the stalk snaps, letting us know that everything above that point is tasty. You can eat rapini raw chopped into salad or cook it in the ways you might prepare kale or broccoli. It’s delicious roasted in a single layer in a pan, or you can chop it and sauté it with butter and garlic.
The kids, however, prefer to eat rapini in its native habitat. They are quick to spot the first yellow blossoms of the year and run out with delight to graze in the field. Rusty’s not much of a greens eater in the house at mealtime, but he loves eating raw rapini of all kinds plucked straight off the plant.
This week’s share has the first of the year’s rapini as a separate item (it’s been in the salad mix all year): cabbage rapini, which will be more firm than the turnip type pictured with the kids. In the coming weeks, you’ll get to try rapini of all kinds. If this is a new food to you, we encourage you to experiment with the variation in flavors and texture with different preparation techniques.
Another sign of spring’s [eventual] arrival: we have the first of the arugula this week! Because it’s just the first, we’re going to limit it this week to one bag per household. Thanks for your understand when we limit things; we want to make sure everyone who wants a taste gets it!
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s farmers:
- Spicy cabbage sauerkraut
- Cabbage rapini!
- Marina di Chioggia
- Spaghetti squash
- Pie pumpkins