EFN INTRODUCTION. The directors of the Experimental Farm Network selected this exciting plant from the feral leaf turnips growing at the Deitrichs' farm in Salem County, NJ. They assume the plants escaped from an Italian farmer generations ago. Similar plants grow across the southern New Jersey region, but the plants at the Deitrichs' farm had already been informally selected by Chris & Sandy for years when EFN founders Nate Kleinman & Dusty Hinz took over selection. It's known locally as "wild broccoli raab", and some folks eat it every day it's in season — and the season starts many weeks before anything else, often growing through snow. It's delicious raw or cooked (and especially good in scrambled eggs or just sauteed in some olive oil). A readily self-seeding biennial, it is best planted in late Spring, but can be planted well into late Summer and still provide excellent "raabs" the following Spring. Even when it's not sending up the cut-and-come-again flower spikes from which it gets its name, the leaves make great cooking greens well into the Winter months. Thanks to the Deitrichs' wise stewardship of their land — eschewing herbicides, leaving lots of land unmowed — and love for this plant in particular, a strong population thrives in their corner of southern New Jersey. These seeds come from the most productive, earliest plants, selected in an effort to re-domesticate it with all of its best wild properties intact. That process will continue, both in Elmer and elsewhere (since we've distributed these seeds to EFN volunteers and customers far and wide), no doubt yielding interesting new strains of "re-domesticated" wild broccoli raab, but for now we're quite happy to offer you this gem. 'Deitrich's Wild Broccoli Raab' carries the Open Source Seed Initiative Pledge (visit www.osseeds.org for more information).
GROWING TIPS: Scatter seeds haphazardly in a prepared block of soil to your liking, with the assumption that the plant will keep coming back wherever you plant it (unless you make sure to pull up every one before it sets seed). Thinning isn't imperative, but individual plants may want 3-6 square inches to themselves. The soil need not be perfectly prepared: this is wild seed that competes in hayfields with perennial grasses. Give them a good initial watering and that should be enough to get them going. A biennial, it is best planted in late Spring, but can be planted well into late Summer and still provide excellent "raabs" the following Spring. Use the leaves as a cooking green well into winter (and sometimes all the way through it). Raabs are the tender green flower spikes that start shooting up the following spring; for best taste and texture, cut them at 4-8 inches. In South Jersey, they start producing by mid-March. Colder climates could expect the raabs to begin 2-4 weeks later; in warmer area, it might be 2-4 weeks earlier. Come back and cut more raabs every 3-7 days, for upwards of a month. If you want to "naturalize" your own patch, stop cutting the raabs after a few harvests and let the plant go to seed. Pull them up before they go to seed to prevent them from establishing (and don't be surprised if a few of them have turnip-like roots, a testament to their origin as a domesticated crop).