Broccoli & Broccoli Rabe – What’s the difference?

It seems that most people either love or hate these two winter veggies.  I happen to love them both!  Though we can buy Broccoli Rabe & Broccoli all year, November is usually the last month you’ll be able to find them locally at your farmers market.  Despite their similar names, what sets these cruciferous veggies apart is the plant family they belong to. Both are members of the Brassica family but broccoli is more closely related to the cabbage, while broccoli rabe’s closest kin is turnips.  Who knew?


Broccoli was first cultivated as an edible crop in the northern Mediterranean region starting in about the sixth century B.C., and as far back as the Roman Empire, it’s been considered a uniquely valuable food when it comes promoting health anbroccoli-photod longevity. Research links broccoli and cruciferous vegetable consumption with loads of health benefits, including these:

  • Cancer prevention
  • Lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Slowed aging
  • Better teeth and gum health
  • Better bone health
  • Prevention of prematurely aged, irritated skin
  • Better wound healing
  • Better eye health
  • Detoxified blood
  • Liver protection
  • Balanced pH level and regulated blood acidity
  • Improved hormonal health and adrenal gland functioning
  • Improved fertility
  • Increased metabolism and better management of a healthy weight
  • Better cognitive function, even into old age




Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli [NEW] 

Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe & Turkey Sausage [from our archives]


(also known as rapini)

broccoli-rabe-isolatedOriginally cultivated in the southern Mediterranean, it was brought to the United States in the 1920s by Italian immigrants. With a nutty and distinctively bitter taste, broccoli rabe is a staple in Italian and Chinese cuisine and beyond. Considered one of the top 10 superfoods, this green leafy vegetable is a great example of a food that can have a huge impact on your nutrition and overall health. It’s packed with potassium, iron and calcium, dietary fiber and as well as vitamins A, C and K.  Broccoli rabe also contains lutein, which is an antioxidant that protects the retinas of your eyes from damage caused by free radicals. Broccoli Rabe is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. The health benefits are numerous and include:

  • Slows aging
  • Stronger bones
  • Decreased risk of hypertension
  • Lessens inflammation
  • Cancer protection
  • Alzheimer’s protection
  • Stroke prevention
  • Protects against birth defects




Choosing, Buying, and Storing Broccoli
Choose broccoli heads with tight, green florets and firm stalks. The broccoli should feel heavy for its size. The cut ends of the stalks should be fresh and moist looking. Avoid broccoli with dried out or browning stem ends or yellowing florets. Store broccoli unwashed in an open plastic bag in the refrigerator. If bought very fresh (i.e. at a farmers market) broccoli will keep up to 10 days.


Choosing, Buying, and Storing Broccoli Rabe
When selecting broccoli rabe, look for bright green crisp leaves, avoiding leaves that are wilted, yellow, or with patches of slime. Generally, the thinner and firmer the stems, the more tender your rabe will be. The florets should be tightly compact and dark green in color. To prepare broccoli rabe for cooking, wash it thoroughly and remove about an inch of the stems, which tend to be tough. Broccoli rabe can be stored in the refrigerator unwashed and loosely wrapped in a plastic bag for 3-5 days.