Asian food has become incredibly popular around the world, so it is not surprising to find that an increasing number of people are eager to grow their own Asian vegetables.
But what are Asian vegetables?
To give a short answer, it includes a range of fast-growing brassica varieties, ranging from very large Chinese cabbage to small Chinese cabbage. In western nurseries you will find a variety of these (both as seedlings and in seed form), although often the same species are given different names. A good example of this is pak choy, bak choy, bok choy, which although considered a type of Chinese chard, looks more like a type of spinach (which it is not) more like a type of cabbage!
Common Asian greens
Probably the most famous Chinese cabbage is the Chinese cabbage, Brassica Pekinensis, which is also called Shantong cabbage. Varieties or varieties include wong bok, Pe Tsai, and Chihili, all of which will mature in eight to ten weeks, unlike Chinese chard, which only takes five to six weeks to mature.
Generally speaking, Chinese cabbage is a relatively fast maturing crop with a high yield. Brassica oleracea capitata, much more delicate in taste than common cabbage, is a variety.
There is also a flat Chinese cabbage (tat soi or rosette bok choy) spread to form a dark green drink with bright white stems. Like Chinese cabbage, it can be harvested after two months.
Mustard cabbage (gai choy) has more leaves than the stem when ripe, so instead of using just the leaves, the entire plant can be cooked.
Chinese broccoli (jay larn) has long, thin stems and large leaves. It produces clusters of white flowers that, unlike the yellow flowers of bak choy (which can be cooked with the leaves or eaten raw) must be discarded.
Flowering Chinese cabbage (choy sum) is very similar to Chinese broccoli, both have long stems and round leaves. However, flowering cabbage has small yellow flowers. Like broccoli flowers, they can be eaten in the form of a bud, but must be discarded otherwise.
Of course, like all Brassica, when a plant begins to flower (or bolt) it is generally considered to be past its prime. However, if it goes in fast enough, or if a young plant is “sparkling,” you can sometimes nibble on its cocoon, so to speak. Just cut the newly formed flowers and lift your thumbs and they will continue to grow.
While the general rule of thumb is not to eat brassica flowers, there are people who swear that the deployable stalks of pak choy in particular are extremely delicious. The word is that the tight stem is best only before the flower buds fully open.
Generally speaking, Asian vegetables should be grown in soft, rich soil that is fertilized regularly. It also needs to be watered a lot. Although it grows well in winter, it does not like frost. In the tropics, it is possible to grow it all year round.
Annette Welsford is co-author, editor, and publisher of the world’s best-selling book How to Grow Delicious Tomatoes and How to Grow Great Potatoes.
The books available for purchase online are considered reliable “bibles” on growing tomatoes and potatoes. It was purchased by several thousand gardeners in 83 countries and has been featured on leading television, radio, horticultural publications and newspapers on 4 continents.