As a case in point, I was recently serving an entrée accompanied by Broccolini and a diner asked the difference between Broccoli Rabe, Broccolini, and Rapini. For all the Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe or Rapini I have either prepped, cooked, or eaten, I couldn’t recall which one was related to broccoli, and the differences between them geneally.
I promissed my diner that I would have the answer for them the next day, and went home and did my homework.
Here is what I found:
Broccolini is a green vegetable not unlike broccoli with small florets and long, thin stalks. Although often misidentified as young broccoli, it is a cross between broccoli and kai-lan, Chinese broccoli. A natural hybrid of the cabbage family Brassica oleracea. Broccolini's flavor is sweet, with notes of both broccoli and asparagus.
Broccolini is also known by the name Asparation, Asparations, Bimi, and Tender Stem. It was introduced in Mexico in 1994 and first brought into the U.S. market in 1996. They grow the vegetable year round in California and Arizona. Today, you can find broccolini throughout the United States and Canada.
The entire vegetable is consumable, including the occasional yellow flower. Rather delicate, common cooking methods include sauteing, steaming, boiling, and stir frying.
Nutritionally, broccolini is high in vitamin C but also contains vitamin A, calcium, folate and iron.
Rapini (also known as Broccoli Rabe (or Raab), Broccoletti, Broccoli di Rape, Cime di Rapa, Rappi, Friarielli (in Naples), and Grelos) is a common vegetable in Galician, Chinese, Italian, and Portuguese cuisine. The plant is a member of the Brassiceae tribe of the Brassicaceae, whose taxonomy is very difficult. Rapini is classified scientifically as Brassica rapa subspecies rapa, in the same subspecies as the turnip, but has had various other designations, including Brassica rapa ruvo, Brassica rapa rapifera, Brassica ruvo, Brassica campestris ruvo.
Rapini has many spiked leaves that surround a green bud which looks very similar to a small head of broccoli. There may be small yellow flowers blooming from the buds, which are edible.
The flavor of Rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, and pungent. The Italian cultivar is similar to, but much more bitter than, the Chinese. The Chinese cultivar is of a lighter green color, not at all bitter or pungent, and more tender.
Rapini is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron.
The vegetable probably descends from a wild herb, a relative of the turnip, that grew either in China or the Mediterranean region. It is similar in shape to the Chinese Brassica oleracea cultivar called kai-lan.
Rapini is now grown throughout the world. Rapini is available all year long, but its peak season is fall to spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
Rapini is commonly used in traditional Barese and southern Italian cuisine.
The Geek Chef