What's The Difference Between Broccoli Rabe And Broccolini?

There are some things in this world that should never be mistaken as one and the same. If you've ever repeatedly confused the identities of a pair of identical twins and faced the wrath of their chagrin, you'll know this firsthand. In many other cases, most people will forgive you for conflating two distinct but seemingly similar things. When it comes to produce, such items are often the offshoots of more recognizable fruits and vegetables at the top of their family trees. This is true for oranges, whose easily mistakable cousins include the satsuma, the tangerine, and the mandarin orange

This is also true for broccoli, the picture of nutrition that packs in antioxidants, fiber, and other healthful vitamins, according to Healthline. It's not hard to pick the cabbage-related plant out of a lineup, but what about its slightly more refined look-alikes, broccoli rabe, and broccolini? Read on for a breakdown.

They're friends, not relatives

Unlike the tangy relatives of the orange, broccoli rabe is more closely related to the turnip family than the broccoli family, according to MasterClass. With thinner, more bare stems and larger leaves at the base, the nutty vegetable tastes similar to mustard greens. The plant didn't make its way to the United States until the 1920s, by way of Italian immigrants, per Garrubbo Guide.

Broccolini is similarly deceptive in the sense that it's not simply a cuter version of broccoli. Rather, it's a Frankenstein mashup of broccoli and Chinese broccoli (or Chinese kale), which has flat leaves instead of florets. If you've never cooked with broccolini, it could be because it's a relatively new vegetable. According to The Washington Post, broccolini didn't make its way to produce aisles until the mid-1990s, courtesy of the Japanese company Sakata Seed Inc. When the company wanted to retain broccoli's color and flowering buds while trading in its tough, bitter stalks for ones that were sweeter and more tender, broccolini was born.