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Rapini or raab are two of the many common names of Brassica rapa var. cymosa, the edible leaves of a turnip variety originating in the Mediterranean. It developed from the wild species Brassica campestris and belongs to the cabbage family of Brassicaceae or Cruciferae. Rapini is grown the Italian provinces of Apulia and Campania. The annual plant is closely related to and reminds of kai-lan. In contrast to turnips it has strong dark green leaves and a relatively small root. The plant grows up to 80 cm and has yellow flowers that grow in clusters.

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Quality of rapini

Fresh rapini should have firm stalks and an even light green colour. No yellow or brown spots should be visible. The leaves of fresh rapini should be dark green and firm. The flower buds should still be closed.

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Storage of rapini

Unwashed rapini can be kept in the fridge for up to one week. The taste is best when it is prepared as fresh as possible though. Rapini is not suited for freezing.

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Use and preparation of rapini

Rapini is available all year. The whole plant, including stalks, leaves and flowers is edible. Stalks and leaves are washed under running water. The stalk ends are often quite hard and are cut off and discarded. Depending on the recipe the stalks are cut into even pieces of the desired size. Rapini is slightly bitter. To remove some of the bitterness it may be blanched before it is prepared as the recipe requires. Leaves and stalks should be blanched separately. Stalks cook in 3 to 5 minutes while leaves should only be blanched for one minute.

Rapini has a taste and smell that reminds of cabbage and goes well with hearty stews and as a side dish to braised beef.

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