What Is the Difference Between Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe, and Broccolini?
If you have decided to increase the vegetable content of your diet, then these three winter greens might just be what you need. All three come with solid stalks sporting florets and deep-green leaves on top. Besides, they all have similar names but completely different plants. While the three are very good additions to your healthy meal, you should try to understand what sets broccolini, broccoli, and broccoli rabe apart. This write-up is poised to x-ray the differences and similarities between the three veggies, as well as the best way each of them can be utilized in the kitchen.
What is Broccoli?
This cruciferous veggie is part of the cabbage family, while its large florets keep it in regular demand; the whole plant is technically edible. The tops of broccoli vegetable resemble a tree, sporting thick and crispy stalks with the rounded greenish florets on top. As for flavor, Broccoli comes with an earthy, grassy, flavor that is slightly bitter. The vegetable also comes with a crunchy texture, reducing its versatility relative to other veggies.
However, with regards to cooking, the broccoli veggie is not lacking in versatility and can be enjoyed roasted, steamed, sautéed, and stir-fried. What’s more, you can even decide to puree it in a sauce. And while the cooked vegetable makes a delicious side dish broccoli can still be consumed raw in crudités and salads. Talking about nutrition, broccoli shines; it is replete with minerals and vitamins with high fiber content. And compared to other veggies, broccoli has more protein.
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What is Broccoli Rabe?
Broccoli rabe is another Italian vegetable, often referred to as Cime di Rapa meaning turnip tops. Also, with broccoli rabe, the entire plant can be enjoyed in many ways and though it has a similar name with your regular broccoli, broccoli rabe’s closest kin is a turnip. However, it is also related to cabbage alongside broccolini, broccoli, and Chinese broccoli. These veggies can be distinguished by closer scrutiny of their leaves, stalks, and florets. But then, broccoli rabe’s tiny buds and darker green hue makes shoppers confuse it with other leafy greens.
Broccoli rabe is also called rapini or raab and is unbelievably versatile in cuisine. You can use it in the same way as other bitter leafy greens (like your regular mustard greens and turnips) and also add it in your soup, hummus, and quesadilla. It is even more delicious when blended into a smoothie. What’s more, the leafy greens of the rapini are known by their nutty, earthy flavor, and almost the entire plant can be consumed, this means less wastage.
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Additionally, the rapini is distinguished by its slender and long stalks sporting small buds (looks more like broccoli florets) and deep-green leaves. Even better; you can buy it fresh off farmer’s markets and groceries, especially during the winter, which is its peak season.
What is Broccolini?
People might easily think that broccolini is baby broccoli judging from both its name and appearance, but it is far from it. This lanky vegetable was created in 1993 as a hybrid and is actually a cross between the Chinese broccoli and the regular broccoli. The result is a leafy green with edible leaves, smaller florets, and a milder taste.
It also has long stalks and a few small leaves — all of which are edible, including the florets. Relative to broccoli rabe and broccoli, broccolini comes with a flavor best described as sweet and mild. Though it can be consumed raw, this vegetable is best eaten cooked. What’s more, you can also steam, sautée, grill, or roast your broccolini. And though not in the same league as both broccoli and broccoli rabe, broccolini also provides us with both vitamins C and A. It also has calcium and iron.
Broccolini vs Broccoli
The similarity between broccolini and broccoli cannot be overlooked as the two vegetables look quite similar. Besides, coming from the same family adds to their similarities, and we are yet to factor in the fact that broccoli is the parent of broccolini. So, it is quite difficult to distinguish one from the other when thrown into a meal. However, there are some subtle differences that set them apart from each other.
Firstly, the stems of the broccolini are softer and smaller than that of its parent. Also, it appears that the broccolini might have been created to tone down the bitter flavor of the broccoli as its taste is more on the sweet, earthy and milder side when compared to broccoli. And with regards to texture, broccolini is a bit more tender compared to broccoli. In fact, people who love to garnish their meals with broccolini have testified that the combination of the softer florets and crunchy stems are just too good, especially when the florets have soaked up enough sauce.
Broccoli Rabe vs Broccoli
Despite the similarities in their names, the broccoli rabe is closer to turnip than broccoli as mentioned earlier. In fact, certain features in both broccoli rabe and broccoli set them completely apart. While broccoli rabe sports more slender stems relative to broccoli, the florets are realized as smaller, but the leaves are much more plentiful than broccoli. Additionally, the stalks of broccoli rabe don’t come as tough and thick like that of the broccoli; thus, you don’t need to peel them before use.
In terms of flavor, broccoli rabe is distinguished by a bitter edge, which is believed to turn creamy and mild when it is steamed past the tender stage.
Broccoli Rabe vs Broccolini
The relationship between broccoli and broccolini becomes very glaring when you consider their parent-offspring plants. The leafy-green was first called “aspiration”, thanks to its flavor that has asparagus undertones. However, it was later changed to broccolini. Both are cruciferous veggies belonging to the cabbage family.
The difference between broccoli and broccolini is more evident in their appearances. The large florets of the broccoli stand out against broccolini’s smaller florets. Additionally, broccolini’s leaves are equally small and are hardly noticeable; the stems are leggy and longer than that of the broccoli, which is thick and very short. When cooked, broccolini is sweeter and tenderer than its parent, broccoli.