Wild Food: Rape Greens

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Brassica napus -rape - young plants suitable for harvesting growing on a fenland roadside amongst chickweed (stellaria media).

Photos taken 13th March 2009.

The common oil-seed rape or cole seed, Brassica Napus, used to be one of the best of the free greens. But modern varieties have been bred for fast flowering to give maximum seed production, so they simply do not grow to give the succulent greens that used to be findable. The name, rape, is from the same origin as the Rapa in Brassica Rapa - the wild turnip. The origin of the plant is long since lost in history, but David Streeter, in the book 'The Wild Flowers of the British Isles', suggests it arose as a hybridisation between Brassica Oleracea (the wild cabbage) and Brassica Rapa. This has now been confirmed by genetic analysis.

Rape for seed not being good for greens, you have to search for Forage Rape if you wish to find seeds.

The plant is very widespread, certainly in England and in consequence escapes from cultivation are frequent. Roadside verges can be covered in rape's yellow flower - however, for the greens to be good, if you are looking for the flowers to locate it, you are too late!

The young leaves and stalks are at their best just before flowering: once they are in flower the whole plant tends to take on a taste similar to the rather revolting smell of a field of rape in flower. The fact that they flower early in the year makes their usable season relatively short, but they can be picked at a time when there is very little in the way of tasty greens available to pick or to buy. Rape Greens would be welcome at any season!

The quality of rape greens is as good as any of the cabbage family. Certainly all the varieties that are normally sold as 'spring greens' are usually inferior. Rape Greens are probably nearest in flavour and texture to purple sprouting broccoli. It's one vegetable we eagerly await as winter ends.


Rape greens were the first thing I ever kimcheed - and they are probably one of the nicest! I simply chopped the whole heads so the pieces of stalk were about 20mm long and there were no large whole leaves present. Nothing wrong with whole leaves: they were simply easier to pack into a small jar this way! Do not discard the stalks: rape grows very fast so a large portion of the stalk is tender and snaps easily. Kimcheed, this is perhaps even nicer than the leafy parts.

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Document URI: http://wildfood.torrens.org/plants/B/Brassica/Napus.html
Page first published 20th May, 2001.
Last modified: Thu, 26 Mar 2020 11:26:36 GMT
Written by and © Richard Torrens