Dietrich’s Wild Broccoli Raab

Crop: Turnip (Brassica rapa)

Use/Type: Greens

Breeder: Chris Dietrich, Sandy Dietrich, Dusty Hinz, Nate Kleinman Experimental Farm Network

OSSI Pledge Date: 4/13/2016

Release Date: 4/13/2016

Bred for Organic Systems: Yes

Commercial Availability: Yes

Variety Type: Finished Variety


“BRED & INTRODUCED BY EFN. When we arrived in Elmer, NJ, in early 2014, camping out in a field to start the EFN flagship farm, the owners, Sandy and Chris Deitrich, told us we should start picking and eating the “”wild broccoli raab”” that abounds on the farm. It took a day or two for us to find it, but then we realized it was all around us. We were soon hooked, eating it daily raw or cooked (it’s especially good in scrambled eggs or sauteed in olive oil with some garlic) for as long as it was available. Amazingly, this overwintering biennal produces its deliciously bittersweet flower spikes so early in Spring, it’s really still Winter. Six or eight weeks before the first asparagus makes an appearance, and weeks before overwintering kale or other turnips or any other vegetable start producing, this incredibly productive broccoli raab is already a staple. We’ve seen it flowering through snow on more than one occasion. And even when it’s not sending up its cut-and-come-again flower spikes in the Spring, the leaves make great cooking greens. Here in New Jersey, we plant it in mid-Summer, eat its big leaves in the Fall, then let it rest after the freeze — completely unprotected, regardless of Winter’s worst polar vortex — and then gorge all Spring. We assume it’s a feral leaf turnip escaped from some erstwhile Italian farmers in the neighborhood, because the plant looks a lot like ‘Seven Top’, though it is hardier, earlier, and more productive. The plants are also far less uniform, but their diversity presumably makes them much more resilient. Similar plants grow throughout this area as weeds, but thanks to the Deitrich’s wise stewardship of their land — eschewing herbicides and leaving lots of land unmowed — along with their love for this plant, a particularly strong population thrives in their corner of southern New Jersey. For some thirty years they’ve informally selected for the strongest plants simply by picking mainly from them (which encourages more flower spikes to develop and thus leads to much heavier seed production). EFN organizers Nate Kleinman & Dusty Hinz have continued where Chris & Sandy left off, selecting seeds from only the most productive, earliest plants in an effort to re-domesticate it with all of its best wild properties intact. That process will continue, and may yet yield new varieties (like a purple one) but for now we’re happy to offer you this gem. Bred by Nate Kleinman, Dusty Hinz, and Sandy & Chris Deitrich.”

Availability from OSSI Seed Company Partners