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Spigarello has wavy edible greens with thin fibrous stems. At peak maturity the greens will produce edible flowers but never large floret heads like common broccoli. The blossoms have four yellow petals that appear in small clusters. Their scent is very mild and has more of a vegetal aroma rather than floral. The flavor of Spigarello flowers is mild, slightly grassy and sweet with a honeyed finish. The fully opened blossoms are very soft, but the tighter newly opened buds offer a pleasant texture that pops.
Spigarello flowers are available when temperatures climb during late spring through early fall, but may be found sporadically throughout the year.
Spigarello flowers are the blossoms of an heirloom broccoli variety considered to be the parent of broccoli rabe. It is a subspecies of Brassica rapa that exhibits the Brassiceae family’s characteristic “cross” shaped blossoms. There are dozens of Spigarello varieties, including Quarantina, Sessantina and Novantina. Some varieties are smooth-leaved, others curled, yet the blossoms remain similar.
Spigarello flowers are commonly found amongst the still closed buds of the spindly stems. They may be removed and eaten raw by themselves or kept intact on the stalks and used with the florets as a salad or in a broccoli pesto. Blossoms may also be lightly cooked on the stalk, but are fragile and will begin to wilt. Barely opened buds with just a touch of the yellow petals emerging are sturdier and can stand up to more heat. Their peppery bite balances the richness of cheese and smoked meats, and adds spice to green salads. Spigarello flowers pair with cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss), garlic, lemon, mustard, bacon, ham, onion, leek, hollandaise sauce, red pepper flakes, anchovies and capers.
Spigarello is native to Southern Italy, specifically Napoli and Puglia where it is considered a primitive ancestral variety. The only other prominent growing region outside of Italy is southern California, where it has been cultivated since the late 20th Century. California's rich farming coastline in Carpinteria provides a region whose climate is similar to that of Italy's coastal regions. Spigarello is a cut-and-come-again cool season crop that can withstand slight frost and will deliver multiple harvests per plant. It thrives in spring and fall and requires full sun and moist soils with slight acidity. The flowers are produces after the plant bolts, usually during the warmer months of summer.
Recipes that include Spigarello Flowers. One is easiest, three is harder.
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