I'm going to start this story by setting the scene of my backyard. I bought a house about a year and a half ago and, to say it nicely, the backyard needs some help. I'm approaching "Project Backyard Overhaul" as a series of mini projects (cut trees, pull dead/ugly bushes, keep grass trim, etc.) all feeding into my bigger master plan. At the time this took place there was (and still is) a patch of dirt to left of the house that's, well, just dirt.
In about the middle of May, I noticed something growing on the patch of dirt. When I went to inspect it, I recognized that what was growing was broccoli rabe. I could tell from the leaves. In my next conversation with my dad, I mentioned that I had rabe growing in my yard to which he replied, "Oh wow. They must be wild. Be sure to water them if it's sunny." Thanks for the tip dad! We had a pretty rainy spring so watering wasn't a problem, but on a couple stretches of dry weather I did pull out the hose.
My dad grows rabe every year so I'm familiar with them, but hadn't tried to grow them on my own yet. As these little guys grew, I had several conversations with my dad to be sure I was taking all the right steps and would know when to pick them. He advised that once I could see the broccoli in the center they were ready to pick, the bigger they grow the tougher they are. In these conversations, he kept adding "Wow, they are just growing, huh? They must be wild. Very nice."
One night toward the beginning of June, I took an assessment of the rabe's status when I got home from work. I could see the little baby broccoli in the center and was so excited. I called my dad to ask if I should pick them, to which he said, "Yes, within the next couple days." He again added how nice it was that they were just growing wildly. Once I hung up I called my mother (I call them on their respective cell phones in order to track them each down) to update her on the rabe situation and ask how I should wash and prepare them. I had an idea of what to do, but I'm very analytical and wanted a step-by-step explanation. At one point she said, "...that day we came by and dad threw the seeds..." Um hold please! Dad threw the seeds! I replied, "He did what? He's been telling me they are wild." My mother replied, "Haha, and you believe him? Really, don't you know him by now?"
I couldn't believe it! My dad sneak-attack planted broccoli rabe when I wasn't looking and he had me going the whole time!
The funniest part of the story is that I really should have known better. We always poke fun at my dad for his inability to leave any tiny piece of dirt without planting something in it. He's a compulsive planter! For example, if there is a space of dirt near my mother's rose bushes, there is a high probability that he will plant string beans. He literally can't help himself! Then when the string beans grow they hang all over the roses. The plus side is we have string beans. The downside is we have pretty roses with sting beans hanging all over them. Not ideal from a landscape architecture point of view.
Special credit to my mother who came over the night after this all went down to help me pick, wash, and blanch the harvested rabe. I made Rabe with Shrimp the following night. There were so many, I even froze the leafier parts after blanching them so I can use them at another time.