|Spiga-what-the-who-now? The wavy leaved stuff is the spigarello. The flowers are arugula.|
Mrs. Homegrown here:
Spigarello, more properly called Cavolo Broccolo a Getti di Napoli, is a leafy green that tastes a lot like broccoli. But unlike broccoli, you eat the leaves instead of the flowers.
Unlike many of the “exotic” Italian greens we grow, this one is not bitter, and probably will pass muster with those who are fussy about vegetables. To me, it tastes like broccoli, but better. A little like broccoli sprouts. Or a cross between broccoli and kale. Let’s just put it this way–I fell in love with it the first time I took a bite of it a Winnetka Farms. The texture of the leaves is sturdy but tender.
It’s very easy to grow. If you don’t give in to temptation and eat it prematurely, each seedling will grow into a big, sturdy plant. I think of them as broccoli trees. You harvest the leaves as you need them, leaving the plant intact to generate more leaves. Eventually it produces tiny white flowers the bees love.
We’ve never had any luck growing regular broccoli–I really resent fighting off aphids and cabbage worms for months, all for the privilege of harvesting one lousy head somewhere down the line. For that reason, we’ve always grown broccoli rabe instead, and I like that too, but rabe has a more aggressive flavor than either broccoli or spigarello, while spigarello has that true broccoli mildness.
We’ve been growing this as a winter crop in our southern California climate (I believe we planted the seeds back in November, and it’s still going strong). Fundamentally, Spigarello is a cool season vegetable that can take some frost. That means it’s suited to be a spring or fall crop in 4-season climates. All in, in deciding how and when and where to plant it, I’d just pretend it was kale.
Our source for seeds was our friends at Winnetka Farms who sell heirloom Italian vegetable seeds at gardenedibles.com. They are out of stock right now, but will have more in the fall.
Update 4/2/13: Our friends no longer sell this, but you can get Cavolo Broccolo Spigariello Foglio Liscia at Seeds from Italy (growitalian.com).
- Interesting side note from Mr. Homegrown: Sources I’ve come across cite spigarello as a kind of primitive ancestor vegetable of either broccoli or broccoli rabe.
- Translation request: Do any Italian-speaking readers want to help us with the translation of the full Italian name? We’re thinking it might be something like “Jetting Cabbage Broccoli from Naples”–but we could be very wrong about the getti.