Broccoli Raab

Revised 1/01 -- Author Reviewed 1/01 HIL-5-A

Douglas C. Sanders
Extension Horticultural Specialist
Department of Horticultural Science
College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
North Carolina State University


Broccoli-raab (also known as rapa, rapine, rappone, fall and spring raab or turnip broccoli) is a rapidly growing annual when grown in spring, but a biennial in fall plantings. The leaves with the seed-stalks, before blooming, are cut for greens and are sold to ethnic markets (primarily Italian).

It is grown for two purposes: 1) for greens, and 2) for greens plus the unopened flower buds and stems.

There are several varieties of broccoli-raab. In general, there are two types, namely: "Broccoli-raab Fall" and "Broccoli-raab Spring". They are essentially the same except that the fall strains tend to form flower heads a little earlier than the spring varieties. There is generally very little difference between the two. Some of the fall strains will overwinter better than the spring varieties.

Some of the varieties listed are Annual (Fina 2), Rappone, Rapa, Fall and Spring raab. (For more complete information, consult extension bulletin AG-487, Commercial Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Greens.)

Soils -- This crop may be grown in a variety of soils. The heavier loams will generally produce the greatest yields, but for early spring growth and overwintering in the east, a lighter, well-drained, sandy loam is best. Soils should be well drained, high in organic matter and well prepared. A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is desirable.

Fertilizers -- Leafy vegetables require quick, continuous growth for best quality. They need nitrogen especially for good color and tenderness. For the average soils use 800 lb of an 8-8-8 fertilizer per acre before planting. Sidedress with 15 to 20 lb of nitrogen per acre, 3 to 5 weeks after emergence. If the crop is overwintered, another such sidedressing should be applied in late winter, just prior to new growth.

Planting -- Rows may be 18 to 36 inches apart and plants should be 1 1/2 to 3 inches apart. One to 1 1/2 lb of seed will plant one acre.

Planting Dates

Coastal Plain




Feb 1 - Apr 15

Feb 15 - Apr 30

Mar 1 - May 30


Aug 1 - Sep 15

Jul 15 - Sep 15

Jul 15 - Aug 15


No herbicides are cleared for this crop. Regular and shallow cultivation is essen-tial to keep down weeds and grasses. Irrigation is beneficial, especially for the fall crop, since leafy vegetables require adequate moisture for continuous growth and high quality.

Insects* -- A wide variety of insects and diseases similar to those of cabbage and broccoli may attack this crop.

Harvesting -- Broccoli-raab is often har-vested for greens similarly to mustard, kale and turnip greens. Leaves are cut when 4 to 8 inches high and sold loose in bushel hampers or tied in 1- to 2-lb bunches.

This crop goes to seed readily. It makes several small flower heads which are cut, just as in regular broccoli, before the flower buds open. These flower heads usually average about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The stems of these heads are cut to a length of 8 to 10 inches and tied in bunches of 1 to 2 lbs each. Occasionally, it is sold loose in bushel baskets. A bunch usually contains about 1/3 to 1/2 flower heads and stems and the remainder is leaves. In cooking, the leaves, stems and flower heads are cooked and eaten just as turnip greens or regular broccoli.

When tying in bunches, use soft string, rubber bands, tape, raffia or similar material and make sure bunches are tied tightly and neatly. Remove all discolored or damaged leaves. Wash thoroughly in clean water to remove sand and dirt.

If weather is warm and hauling distance is over 50 miles, crushed ice should be used to retain quality. When hampers or crates are used, put crushed ice in the middle and on top of each crate. When hauling loose in bulk, put crushed ice on top of the stack. In hauling to market, cover the truckload with a tarpaulin to prevent drying out.

If planted early in the fall or late in the spring, this crop requires about 60 to 65 days from seeding to first harvest of the flower heads. If planted in the late fall harvest is usually delayed until late winter or early spring.

The fall varieties will withstand fairly cold winter weather but even these varieties will be killed if temperature drops much below 15oF, or if heavy freezes occur rather suddenly after a prolonged warm period.

* Contact the county extension center for identification of the insect problem and control.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact an agent of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in your county.

Published by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.