Asian Veggies

I’ve come to really enjoy growing Asian vegetables.  We grew a few things last year then added more this year. We’ve found them all to be well-suited to our climate and soil, and delicious to boot.

This year we grew mizuna, several varieties of pac choi, Tokyo Bekana, senposai, tatsoi, Yukina savoy, and a couple of varieties of Chinese cabbage.

We grew mizuna in the spring as an experiment and it was a great success. We planted it by seed and it came up reliably and quickly.  It is a very prolific cut-and-come-again veggie.  Here are a couple of recipes that we enjoyed.  Mizuna in Korean Dressing.  Mizuna with Steamed Red Potatoes and Goat Cheese.  It’s also great raw in salads.

Pac choi (also known as bok choy) is great in stir fries.  It too is hearty and easy to grow.

Tokyo Bekana looks a lot like leaf lettuce, but it has a mild version of the distinctive mustardy taste of Asian greens.  We treated it like lettuce and enjoyed it in salads.

Senposai is like collard greens, but a bit sweeter and milder.  We enjoyed it in salads, soups, sauteed and as a cooked green.  It can be used any way collards can be used.  I discovered this one through Pam Dawling who speaks very highly of it in her excellent book Sustainable Market Farming (highly recommended).

Yukina Savoy is a like a larger version of tatsoi.  We usually put tatsoi in salads or stir fries.  You could do that with Yukina Savoy as well, of course.  Cherie cooked it in a soup that was amazing.  Here’s the recipe:  Chickpea Soup With Tomatoes and Greens.

Our Chinese cabbages (sometimes called Napa cabbages) were excellent.  We grew Michili and Blues.  They grew to whopping sizes and were delicious raw, right out of the garden.  We found that they keep extremely well in the fridge, which is great since it takes a while to finish one.

In addition to being delicious, Asian greens and veggies tend to be nutrient-dense.  There are lots of health claims being made about their value in preventing illness.  They may or may not be true.  It’s a well-known fact that cancer rates are much lower in Asia where these kinds of veggies dominate diets, but whether that’s because these veggies prevent cancer or because the standard Western diet causes it, or some combination of those things, I can’t say.

As much as we’ve come to love these veggies, getting people to try them has been a bit of a challenge.  For the most part those who do end up coming back for more.

I got the catalog from Kitazawa Seed Company this year. They specialize in Asian Veggies and Greens and the catalog is full of enticing possibilities.  I plan to add another thing or two this year.

Thinking of spring planting on a winter morning…

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9 comments on “Asian Veggies

  1. what a good thing to be thinking of this morning .. I had not thought of any of these and so thank for the suggestions and thank Cherie for the recipes/ I was sitting here marveling at how wonderful it is for you to know where your food comes from and to grow all or most of it your selves….

    • As you can see, I wrote this before my first cup of coffee. :)

    • Bill says:

      One of the things I love best about this life is growing most of our food. And as the addition of these awesome Asian veggies shows, that does not mean we have to have a limited diet. We probably have a more diverse (and far more nutritious) diet than the vast majority of people who get their food from grocery stores.

  2. Farmgirl says:

    Bok choy is on my list this year to grow as well. I think Napa cabbage may be in order too. I had trouble getting people to buy kale! I cannot imagine how you get folks to buy anything more exotic than that! I may try though this year. Thanks for this post! Excellent!

    • Bill says:

      It’s not easy to get folks to try it. We told them Tokyo Bekana was “Japanese lettuce” and that senposai was “Asian collards.” That helps, but there is still a resistance factor. But we had some reluctant customers eventually coming back for more. Sometimes we’d just give it to people and encourage them to try it. We’re careful not to grow too much of it. And we love it, so if it doesn’t sell, then more for us!

  3. El Guapo says:

    Fun! Thinking of spring is the only thing that’s going to get me through winter.

  4. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I’ve been reading about and researching the art of fermenting. Asian vegetables look as though they would be great to ferment. I’m thinking seriously about experimenting with the process during the winter months and be ready to use the garden fresh stuff next year. Stir fries are not my forte but I’m leaning toward learning how to do that as well.

    Have a great Asian stir fry day.

    • Bill says:

      We love stir fries, but they’re new to us too. They’re a great way to enjoy fresh veggies.

      We’re trying to get started on fermentation too. We have a lot of cabbage in the garden, for example, that we need to turn into sauerkraut. You’re right that the Asian veggies are commonly fermented/pickled.

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