Flowering spring raab
Sturdy winter crops from brassica family members including kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips and bok choi overwinter in the ground. When spring rolls around, temperatures rise and the soil warms, these plants go into a growth spurt that causes their tops to flower. Just below and supporting their colorful blossoms are tender stems with a sweet grassy flavor that don't need a recipe to be appreciated.
There was a time, ten or so years ago, when farmers allowed their brassicas to bolt--also called "going to seed"--before plowing them into the soil like a cover crop, to add nitrogen and otherwise enhance the soil for the new planting season. Recently, however, we've come to anticipate finding bunches of these lovely greens in the market, displayed among the other ingredients of early spring.
In combination with other seasonal treats like green garlic or garlic chives, the budding shoots we refer to as raabs become a delicious vegetarian entree or side dish. I especially like them charred in a skillet with little more than good olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Warm a flat, cast iron skillet slowly. Add enough olive oil to lightly slick the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, but not yet smoking, add a bunch of clean, dry raab. Season the greens generously with salt and add a several tablespoons of thinly slivered green garlic. Turn the contents of the pan frequently using tongs, until the greens are wilted and lightly charred. Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze the juice of a lemon over top and sprinkle with red chile flakes if desired. Transfer the greens to a plate and enjoy repeatedly through the months of early spring.