NC Cooperative Extension Resources

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Extension Horticultural Specialist
Department of Horticultural Science

Introduction

Broccoli-raab (also known as rapa, rapine, rappone, fall and spring raab or turnip broccoli) is a rapidly growing annual when grown in spring, but a biennial in fall plantings. The leaves with the seed-stalks, before blooming, are cut for greens and are sold to ethnic markets (primarily Italian).

It is grown for two purposes: 1) for greens, and 2) for greens plus the unopened flower buds and stems.

There are several varieties of broccoli-raab. In general, there are two types, namely: "Broccoli-raab Fall" and "Broccoli-raab Spring". They are essentially the same except that the fall strains tend to form flower heads a little earlier than the spring varieties. There is generally very little difference between the two. Some of the fall strains will overwinter better than the spring varieties.

Some of the varieties listed are Annual (Fina 2), Rappone, Rapa, Fall and Spring raab. (For more complete information, consult AG-487, Commercial Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Greens.)

Soils

This crop may be grown in a variety of soils. The heavier loams will generally produce the greatest yields, but for early spring growth and overwintering in the east, a lighter, well-drained, sandy loam is best. Soils should be well drained, high in organic matter and well prepared. A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is desirable.

Fertilizers

Leafy vegetables require quick, continuous growth for best quality. They need nitrogen especially for good color and tenderness.

Commercial growers: For the average soils use 800 lb of an 8-8-8 fertilizer per acre before planting. Sidedress with 15 to 20 lb of nitrogen per acre, 3 to 5 weeks after emergence. If the crop is overwintered, another such sidedressing should be applied in late winter, just prior to new growth.

Home gardeners: For the average soils, use 2 lb of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet before planting. Sidedress with 12 oz of nitrogen per 100 square feet, 3 to 5 weeks after emergence. If the crop is overwintered, another such sidedressing should be applied in late winter, just prior to new growth.

Planting

Rows may be 18 to 36 inches apart and plants should be 112 to 3 inches apart. One to 112 lb of seed will plant one acre.

Planting Dates

Coastal Plain

Piedmont

Mountains

Spring

Feb 1 - Apr 15

Feb 15 - Apr 30

Mar 1 - May 30

Fall

Aug 1 - Sep 15

Jul 15 - Sep 15

Jul 15 - Aug 15

Culture

No herbicides are cleared for this crop. Regular and shallow cultivation is essential to keep down weeds and grasses. Irrigation is beneficial, especially for the fall crop, since leafy vegetables require adequate moisture for continuous growth and high quality.

Insects*

A wide variety of insects and diseases similar to those of cabbage and broccoli may attack this crop.

Harvesting

Broccoli-raab is often har-vested for greens similarly to mustard, kale and turnip greens. Leaves are cut when 4 to 8 inches high and sold loose in bushel hampers or tied in 1 to 2 lb bunches.

This crop goes to seed readily. It makes several small flower heads which are cut, just as in regular broccoli, before the flower buds open. These flower heads usually average about 1 to 112 inches in diameter. The stems of these heads are cut to a length of 8 to 10 inches and tied in bunches of 1 to 2 lbs each. Occasionally, it is sold loose in bushel baskets. A bunch usually contains about 13 to 12 flower heads and stems and the remainder is leaves. In cooking, the leaves, stems and flower heads are cooked and eaten just as turnip greens or regular broccoli.

When tying in bunches, use soft string, rubber bands, tape, raffia or similar material and make sure bunches are tied tightly and neatly. Remove all discolored or damaged leaves. Wash thoroughly in clean water to remove sand and dirt.

If weather is warm and hauling distance is over 50 miles, crushed ice should be used to retain quality. When hampers or crates are used, put crushed ice in the middle and on top of each crate. When hauling loose in bulk, put crushed ice on top of the stack. In hauling to market, cover the truckload with a tarpaulin to prevent drying out.

If planted early in the fall or late in the spring, this crop requires about 60 to 65 days from seeding to first harvest of the flower heads. If planted in the late fall harvest is usually delayed until late winter or early spring.

The fall varieties will withstand fairly cold winter weather but even these varieties will be killed if temperature drops much below 15°F, or if heavy freezes occur rather suddenly after a prolonged warm period.

Footnotes

* Contact your county extension center for identification of the insect problem and control.

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Last modified: Dec. 16, 2014, 10:50 a.m.