Tips for growing Grelos

For something a little different in the garden, consider growing Grelos. Read on to find out more.

What is Grelos?

What is Grelos? It’s a garden vegetable with a rap sheet as long as your arm. This bad boy is also known as broccoli raab, rapa, rapini, taitcat and Italian turnip and in some parts of the world it is known as rape. Even in Latin, this nasty plant cannot take a break. Some botanists call it Brassica rapa and others Brassica ruvo .

What is Grelos? By his name, this swindler has led many gardeners to believe that he is related to the prince of the garden, broccoli, but in reality, they are only distant cousins. Grelos is closer to turnips and mustards, and like turnips and mustard, its leaves have a somewhat bitter taste. It is quite popular in some parts of Italy, where it originated, but in other parts of the world it is only considered a good food for the backyard broth.

What is Grelos? Anyway, it is easy to grow and is worth a small plot in your garden. However, the way to grow Grelos properly seems to be another

part of the mystery as far as this dark character is concerned.

How to grow Grelos

Grelos is easy to plant and grows fast enough to be planted directly in the garden. Seed catalogues recommend planting the seeds about 4 cm apart, but the seeds are so small that this is almost impossible. Do your best and thin out to 4-6 cm when the seedlings are close together. Do not discard these spikes. Trim the roots and add the washed seedlings to your other salad vegetables.

The growing season for Grelos is another point in question. Ask the authorities how Grelos is grown and they will tell you that it is a fresh seasonal vegetable and should only be grown in spring and autumn, but my Italian neighbour says «pfftt» to that. She says that the growing season for grelos starts just after the last frosts in spring and does not end until the first frosts of winter. The key to growing Grelos, she says, is to grow the smaller, faster-growing varieties and harvest them early, which brings us to another of the vegetable’s crimes.

That nasty vegetarian’s cheating on you again with the names of his Grelo varieties. Planting varieties like Quarantine (40 days), Sessantine (60 days) or Novantine (90 days) can cause problems if you trust their names. All of them are ready to be cut well before the days they claim. When it comes to growing Grelos, never trust these labels. All varieties should be cut as the flower buds form. Waiting even one day can ruin the growing season for your Grelos because this elusive type tends to escape at night. A day or two can make the difference between a good meal and a dinner debacle.

Although the stems will keep in your refrigerator for about 10 days, to preserve them from the taste of the garden, plant only a few seeds every four or five days to prolong the harvest of your Grelos. Successive plantings will give you enough for a meal without overloading your refrigerator. Recipes abound for cooking this versatile vegetable.

One last remark: don’t expect seeds of this slippery type to actually reproduce. They are easily crossed with turnips, mustard (including wild varieties) and any other nearby cousins.

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