Olive Leaf Rapini
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Olive Leaf rapini has elongated stalks with bright green to gray-green leaves. These leaves are crisp, long, and perky with smooth edges. Olive Leaf rapini can reach 35 centimeters to 38 centimeters high and has a thick stem and cream-colored stalks. Olive Leaf rapini has a nutty, slightly pungent and bitter taste when cooked.
Olive Leaf rapini is available all year long, but its peak season is late fall through winter.
Olive Leaf rapini, botanically classified as Brassica rapa, is a member of the cruciferous vegetable group. A unique trait of rapini is it is genetically much closer to mustard and turnip greens rather than broccoli. Olive Leaf rapini may also be known as Foglia d’ olivo, Raab, and Rapa.
Olive Leaf rapini contains healthy amounts of vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium and folate.
Olive Leaf rapini should be cooked prior to consuming. It’s most popularly enjoyed by boiling, steaming, and sautéing. To reduce the bitterness, it is recommended to peel larger stalks and blanch the rapini in salt water. Garlic and olive oil can added for additional flavor. Olive Leaf rapini is known for its use in many pasta dishes and can also be combined in polenta and pureed bean dishes. Its bitter flavor pairs well with pork sausages, bacon, citrus and creamy cheeses. Olive Leaf rapini will store for a couple days when loosely wrapped, refrigerated, and left unwashed to preserve crispness.
Olive Leaf rapini is a staple in Italian cuisine, but is a rare variety to find outside of Italy. It is gaining in popularity as more consumers are becoming more adventurous in cooking, but there are many varieties of rapini are that more prominent outside of Italy. In the United States, Andy Boy purchased rapini seeds from Sicily and were the first to grow it in the late 1920s, but it did not become popular until the mid 1960s. Rapini is an acquired taste that takes time to develop and enjoy.
Olive Leaf rapini originated in Italy in the southern region of Puglia, a region known for its historical farmlands and long coastline. Olive Leaf rapini is believed to have descended from wild mustard plants in the Italian countryside and it remains to be a staple in Southern Italian cuisine today.