Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe, Broccolini: What's the Difference?
|Broccoli rabe (mustard family)
|Broccolini (trademarked hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan)
Broccoli rabe tastes like a dark, leafy, bitter green. It's in the mustard family.
Broccoli, marked by unique blueish-green florets, is related to cabbage.
Before 2006 or so, I'd buy broccoli rabe and occasionally find one or two broccoli-like florets among the greens. But they were rare. You'd easily mistake them for "baby broccoli," or Broccolini—yes, capitalized because it's a trademarked name. It's a man-made hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan (also known as "Chinese broccoli" and, similar to broccoli rabe, is actually a dark leafy green), according to Wikipedia. Sometimes kai-lan is called "Chinese kale" which seems to me like a more descriptive way to put it to Americans.
|Broccoli (cabbage family)
More recently, though, the stuff in the store is half florets and half leafy greens. If I had to guess, I'd say the vegetable gained popularity a few years ago, but because of the name, Americans expected it to be somewhat similar to broccoli. And so the growers made that happen. Again, I don't know if that's true, but it's my guess.
Today I went to the Green Market (New York City's farmers' market) and tada! Real broccoli rabe! If you're looking for the real deal, that wonderful bitter green that sautées up nicely with a bit of minced garlic and some olive oil, try hitting up the famers directly. They know what broccoli rabe is supposed to be.