Rapini with green garlic

kale rapiniWhat are Rapini?

If you have any kale, collards or other Brassicaceae overwintered from last year, you may notice small clusters of flower buds that look like little broccoli florets.  (In fact, they are – broccoli is a kale that has been bred for gigantic flower clusters, and to produce them in the first season rather than the second. )

These flower clusters are called raab or rapini in European cuisine, and are a real treat.  They first appear in early spring, and grow faster as the weather warms. Don’t pull the plant out!  Pick the rapini as they appear, daily if possible, and they will continue to feed you for about a month.

Your earliest rapini will be mild, more like broccoli; as the season progresses the shoots will have a stronger, delightful mustard flavor.  Raw, they are spicy, but like mustard greens, mellow with cooking.

Harvest with a quick flick of your thumb and forefinger, or cut with a thumbnail.  Any stem you can harvest this way with a clean break will be tender and not stringy.  Nibble on a bit of one you think broke cleanly to be sure your standards are high enough.  For the best flavor, harvest as close as possible to dinnertime.

Braised Rapini with Green Garlic

On low heat, warm a skillet or wok with about 2 Tbs. of your favorite cooking fat.  This recipe is most delicious with good olive oil, another reason to keep the heat low.

Cleaning rapini: other than a quick rinse, they should be ready to eat.

Green garlic: Pull like a leek.  Cut off roots.  If the new stalk is wrapped in an old squishy clove, peel it off, leaving the clean, scallion-like center.  Rinse.  Trim and compost any brown or yellow leaf tips.  Cut green leafy top, mince, and add to warm oil in pan.  Saute about 5 minutes.  Mince rest of garlic, add to oil and stir; saute another 5-10 minutes.

When the garlic is still bright green and fills your kitchen with a tasty but mild garlic aroma, toss in the rapini.  The water left from rinsing will steam them gently while they saute.  Stir and cover.  Check after no more than 5 minutes.  When rapini turn bright jade green and slightly limp, they are done.  Serve and enjoy immediately.

If you wish, a sprinkle of lemon juice or black pepper will enhance the flavor.

Wild Greens Dressing

Salvia_officinalis0This tangy dressing will balance the stronger flavors of salads based on kale, chicory, and wild greens.

All these measurements are approximate – vary proportions and substitute ingredients to suit your taste and what you have available.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

4 cloves of garlic, minced

handful of fresh sage leaves, minced

pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a 12-16 oz jar.  Shake well and let stand at least one hour to meld flavors.  Shake again right before serving.

This dressing will keep for weeks on the counter and indefinitely in the refrigerator – though it will likely be eaten up much sooner.

It just keeps getting better with time.

Serve over salad, bread, beans, rice, cooked vegetables, you name it.

Popweed salad

popweedPopweed has tiny leaves.  Cultivated salad plants have been bred over thousands of years to have larger leaves that are easier to harvest.  However, many wild edibles are available all winter, and they are packed with flavor and nutrition!

Popweed is in the mustard and cabbage family, and tastes very much like arugula.  A friend of mine with Italian heritage likes to toss it with hot pasta and butter.

Popweed is best uncooked, or cooked very lightly.  The harvesting is the trickiest part.

Picking it clean

Have a clean bowl, colander or wire strainer by your side.

You may be tempted to harvest the whole rosette, because it is so tiny.  That gets the soil that is embedded in the base of the rosette.  Instead, grasp the top of the plant with one hand and give it a haircut with scissors in the other hand.   Place the cluster of leaves, which should be dirt-free, in your bowl or basket.  Pick out any grass, pine needles or other debris you don’t want to eat.  Find your next cluster and repeat until you have all you want.

You can eat the whole plant, flowers, seed pods and all.


As the leaves are tiny, wash them all at once.  Either rinse them in the colander or basket, or if you harvested some dirt by accident, fill the bowl partly with water, swish the leaves around, and strain through colander.

Braised baby beets and walking onion topsets 

EgyptianWalkingOnion1Harvest and preparation (quantities are flexible!):

Walking onions: Cut 1 green topset per 1-2 eaters.   Trim any brown leaf tips and peel dry outer leaves.  Break apart topsets into individual bulblets.  If any bulblets are larger than 1/4 inch in diameter, chop in half or dice like garlic.

Beets: Thin beet patch by harvesting any beets less than 1 inch from its neighbor. You should end up with beets an inch or less than diameter.   Brush off soil clinging to roots, then pre-wash in rainwater bucket if available.  Separate beets from tops.  Compost any wilted or translucent leaves, as well as top of beet where leaves meet root – dirt tends to hide in there.  Re-wash beets and greens by immersing in bowl of clean water.

Warm 3 Tbs olive oil on medium-low heat in wok or heavy skillet.

Add onion bulblets to warming oil.  Saute for 5-10 minutes, until it browned and slightly shriveled.

(Optional step: Remove sauteed onion with a slotted spoon and reserve in a bowl.  Then add one more Tb oil to pan.  This will keep onions slightly crisp while beets will be tender.)

Slice or dice beet roots.  Add to oil, stir.

Remove stems from larger leaves and dice.  After beet roots have cooked for a minute or two, add diced stems.

Shred or mince larger beet leaves.  You may leave smaller leaves whole. Add after stems have cooked a few minutes. Saute another 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Younger leaves cook more quickly.

When leaves are completely wilted, remove from heat immediately and serve.

(If you removed onions, serve separately as a garnish.)

Combines well with black beans and brown rice.