Kale Rabe Information: How to Grow Napini Kale in the Garden

You may have heard of the turnip family, a member of the turnip family that looks like a tiny leafy broccoli with small yellow flowers. Popular in Italian cuisine, it has recently made its way across the pond. Rapini is often called Grelos here, you may have heard of it under that name too, but what about napini? What’s napini? Napini is sometimes called kale rabe, so you can see that it’s starting to get confusing. Don’t worry, the following information on kale rabe will enlighten you on everything, as well as the uses of napini cabbage and how to grow your own.

Information about kale

Kale is part of the Brassica family which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and even radish. Each of these plants is cultivated specifically for a particular characteristic, whether for its tasty leaves, edible stem, spicy green or spicy root. Although a specific crop of Brassica is grown for a particular characteristic, sometimes other parts of the plant are also edible.

So kale is generally grown for its nutritious leaves, but what about the other parts of the kale? Are they edible? When vegetables begin to flower, they are usually called «bolts» and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Flowering usually makes the greens bitter. In the case of kale, flowering is a very good thing. When they bloom, the stems, flowers and leaves of kale are juicy, tasty, and are called napini, which should not be confused with rapini.

How to grow napa

Many varieties of kale produce napini, but some are bred specifically for this product. Russian Siberian cabbages ( Brassica napus ) are milder than their European counterparts ( B. oleracea ), which makes them well suited for growing napini plants. These Russian-Siberian cabbages are incredibly frost resistant up to -10 F. (-23 C.) and are planted in autumn, winter and are allowed to produce their thick, soft and tender flower buds.

After the winter, as soon as the duration of the day exceeds 12 hours, the napini takes flight. Depending on the region, the cultivation of napinis can start as early as March and continue until late spring or early summer, depending on the kale cultivar.

For the culture of napinis, sow the seeds directly in late summer or early fall. Cover the seeds with ½ inch of soil. Keep the seeded area moist and free of weeds. If there is snow in your area, cover the cabbages with mulch or straw to protect them. Napini should be ready for harvest in March or early summer, depending on the type of kale.

Uses of Napini kale

The color of the nappa can vary from green to purple, but it will turn dark green regardless of when it is fired. It is extremely rich in nutrients, rich in calcium and contains all the vitamins A, C and K in a person’s daily diet.

Some people call napini the spring flowers of a brassica plant. While the spring flowers of other brassicas are also edible, napini refers to the buds of the kale napus. This vegetable is so soft and sweet that it has a variety of uses.

It is not necessary to add too many ingredients to the napini. A simple stir-fry with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper can be finished with a little fresh lemon and that’s it. You can also be more creative and add chopped napinis to tortillas and frittatas. Add it to rice pilaf or risotto during the last minutes of cooking. Don’t overcook the napini. Cook it like broccoli with a quick stir-fry or steam it.

Napini goes very well with pasta or white beans with a touch of lemon and a scraping of Pecorino Romano. Basically, napini can be replaced in any recipe that requires a brassica vegetable such as broccoli or even asparagus.

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