Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Overview Asian Greens

Brassica bed in the spring

I've never been disappointed with Asian greens. There are so many varieties to try. Most of them are in the brassica family and those are the ones I tend to grow. Every year I grow something new for fun. I have the hardest time picking what to grow from my old favorites because they all taste so good.

I also have a real problem with what to call them. Bok choy, pak choi, tsai tai, pai tsai... aaarrgghh! I can't keep them straight. I should just stick with Brassica rapa, since all the ones I've tried are of that species. Take for instance my hands down favorite for taste - Fun Jen. It is listed as a Pai Tsai, or Brassica rapa subsp pekinensis which would put it really close to Chinese cabbage (also called Napa cabbage). But I don't think of Fun Jen as a Chinese cabbage (which it is listed under in the Fedco catalog). I've always called it my frilly bok choy (bok choy and not pac choi because the stems are white - don't even get me started on why the spellings of choi are different). It looks more like a bok choy, really it does. Sigh. Someday I wish we could just all agree on names so I could find the dang thing in a catalog.

Anyway onto the real post. I planted my Asian greens indoors on 3/16 and they were planted out on 4/7 under a row cover. Since they are brassicas and I don't spray Bt all over my garden (I like my swallowtails) I kept them under the row cover all year long. Most of them started to be harvested on 5/2, picking the larger leaves. The timing was fine. Many had successions or fall plantings. I harvested a total of about 19 lbs of them. Except for the mizuna they were all bothered by slugs. Handpicking worked if I did it regularly, but with all the wet weather that meant about every other day and I didn't keep up so harvests were lower than they could have been. They were not bothered by any diseases.

Fun Jen was my hands down favorite in taste. I don't like it cooked. I don't think it has enough structure to hold up to it. The leaves are more like thin lettuce in texture. The white stems are crunchy and sweet. It makes the best Asian salads of anything I've grown. However the slugs also find it the tastiest in the garden. I only grew two plants and didn't do any successions because they were just shredded. A 9" space seems optimal. I harvested a measly 0.8 lbs.


Tatsoi is such a pretty rosette. I plant them 6"-9" apart and did successions throughout the year. They were given about a square foot of space total and I harvested 1.38 lbs. So not bad. Tatsoi wasn't as bothered by slugs as most of the Asian greens, but they weren't left alone. I use tatsoi for soups. It is my favorite soup green. I cut off the stems and put the leaves in the bowl and pour the very hot soup over them. It cooks them perfectly.

I only use purple mizuna for salads. I hear that you can cook them, but I've never tried. So I don't use a lot since it just spices up my lettuce. I had two plants but should have only had one as that would be enough for my needs. It doesn't bolt very easily but the spring planted mizuna will bolt in the summer (late June). When this happened I put in another transplant which held through the fall. Mizuna doesn't seem as bothered by slugs as the other greens. I very rarely found any on it.

Tyfon is huge

Tyfon Holland greens (which technically isn't Asian, but is more similar to them than the western brassicas) were a new one for me this year. They were touted as being the most productive green you can find. They held up to that. I planted two a foot apart in spring and got 3.2lbs of them. That wasn't even from the whole year. The last harvest was 7/14 as they were starting to bolt and I pulled them out. I didn't replace them because they were just OK in taste. If I raised chickens this would be my goto leafy green for them as it is even more productive than chard.

Komatsuna leaves look very similar to Tyfon. They are over a foot long with a good rib. The taste however is delightful. I wish I could describe all the different tastes as each green has a different one. They all have an undertone of the mustard flavor, but that is where the similarity ends. I cook komatsuna by boiling the stems (chopped to 1 1/2") in a small bit of water. After a few minutes and the water is almost boiled off I add the chopped leaves. When it is cooked, I sprinkle with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Tasty. In addition I'll throw it into stirfries or soup. Komatsuna is also great because it will grow in the summertime and is very prolific. It can't quite keep up with Tyfon in production but it tries. I also grew it near the fence which means afternoon shade. I'm sure this made it grow slower, but it still produced well. I put a lot in and I harvested 5.25 lbs. I spaced them 1' apart. I did about four successions over the year.

Chinese cabbage has always been one of my favorite greens. I love its mild sweet flavor. It is an all around winner in salads, soups, and stirfries. I plant it twice. Once in the spring for a June harvest and once in July for a fall harvest. I started the fall seedlings indoors on June 10th. I potted them up (for the life of me I can't figure out when I did it) and planted them out on July 21st. I harvested the first one on October 2nd and the last of them in December. The fall crop did quite well. The spring crop did poorly. The weird spring weather (we had higher highs in April than in June) really through the plants for a loop and they bolted on me. Chinese cabbage is always riskier in the spring than the fall, but I usually do better than this. I harvested a total of 4.81lbs.

Next year the greens will have my largest bed so I expect I'll have room to grow a lot more Asian greens if I want. I'm not sure this is a good thing. I have trouble keeping up with eating them as it is. They are tasty, but also very prolific. I think I might add Senposai into the mix and I've had offers of bok choy seeds so I'll probably grow those again too.


  1. Hi Daphne,

    I migrated over from My Dirt! Am trying to augment my greens diet so this post truly enlightens. Will check out fun jen.


    Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel

  2. thanks for the overview. I'm planning on adding some Asian greens to next years garden as well. The Tyfon Holland will be one to try for the chickens. This year they loved the chard that just kept on coming.

  3. I'm with you on the naming - pak choi, pac choi, etc. Sometimes I just say Choy but then in the next sentence I find myself typing choi. Oh well they are all good, I think. Komatsuna and Tatsoi are perhaps my favorites. They all help give us year-round greens here at Happy Acres. But if it wasn't for the Sluggo the slugs would have them all!

  4. The names have me going in circles too. So far I've been a pak choi, tat soi kind of girl, but I think inspired by you there is Komatsuna in the garden. I'll have to remember to keep it on the menu regularly.

  5. Hey Daphne! Thanks for the overview. I'd followed your Asian greens saga breathlessly through the whole year, so this is a nice wrap-up. Our CSA grew purple mizuna this year, and of course I used it raw in salads as well (as I also do kale and mustard greens, they're great). Fortunately, we do have chickens and you're so right, they love all greens and will happily eat any kind of Asian greens with relish! Strange, but slugs never bother our gardens here. Never, ever. We see slugs on the deck or wherever every once in a while, but never on our plants. Weird.

  6. These are favorites in our garden too! And so hardy! I'm so happy to have your assessment. I've tried Fun Jen but wasn't impressed...could be because I cooked it. I will give it another go.

    How did you keep that Chinese cabbage so hole-free?

    So ready to pore over my seed catalogs with your blog on my laptop...just have to get through the holidays first. THANKS, Daphne!

  7. You grow such nice greens Daphne. I really liked the tatsoi, it will be replacing spinach next season for the most part. I like how it does not turn to green slim when cooked like spinach does. I think what I called bok choy last season was actually a pac choi.... so confusing :-)

  8. The beds of mixed greens are really just too pretty to look at. I think vegetable gardens can be quite ornamental - and a mixed planting of greens certainly qualifies as ornamental. So many colors, textures, and heights.

    I battle slugs constantly due to our location (slug capital of the world!). It borders on a miracle to get a decent looking head of chinese cabbage as a result.

  9. Giulietta, good luck

    The Mom, Tyfon is really quite productive. Komatsuna is a close second. You do have to replant unlike chard, but still very good and it adds to the nutrition.

    villager, I have to try sluggo next year. I'm really sick of squishing slugs. Ick.

    Stefaneener, Komatsuna is really different from those two. I think you'll like it.

    OFB, oh how lucky. I wish I didn't have slugs. They eat way too much. Though if I had chickens like you I would feed the slugs to them. Right now I just put out squashed slug offerings for the local birds. They don't last long.

    June, I didn't like Fun Jen cooked either. It just didn't have the body to hold up to it. The greens would slime out. Ick. I got my CC hole free by cutting off the outer leaves. Those leaves were filled with holes.

    Dan, I like spinach cooked. I don't cook it much though. Just enough to wilt the leaves. I'm curious how my frozen spinach will do that had to be blanched longer than I usually cook it. Right now I've only used it in minestrone soup.

    Jacob, lol I overviewed my onions on the allium page. I did have some Nabechan bunching onions, but I even with that name I don't consider them particularly Asian. They were bunching onions that I use in any type of cuisine.

  10. I wish I read this post before buying my seeds for 2010. I do enjoy Chinese cabbage. Your carrots looked great BTW.

  11. Kalena Michele, wow you have already bought all your seed for next year. I thought I was early. I will probably place an order sometime before the new year.

  12. Beautiful greens! I love mizuna. I planted some old Komatsuna and Kailaan seeds about 10 days ago. With this cold, they haven't sprouted yet, and may not due to age. I just got a catalog from Kitazawa Seeds. Fabulous selection of Asian greens. BTW, I posted my harvest Monday early because I won't have time tomorrow.

  13. Regarding the Chinese cabbage, I've seen some grown with a large rubber band or string tied around them. I don't know if this helps in keeping the slugs out and help them to develop heads.

  14. Have you seen the book *Oriental Vegetables* by Joy Larkcom? She gives lots of names for each vegetable - Latin, English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Japanese. It's a great book about growing and using all kinds of different Asian veggies.

    I have Senposai seeds that I bought from Fedco last year. I'll probably grow a few plants this year but don't need most of the rest of the seeds because I only need a few plants, it grows big and fast. I can send you some seeds if you like. I got the F-1 seeds, if that makes a difference to you.

  15. Michelle, oh I'd love some seed. I'll send you an email, though you might still have my address. I was dithering about buying the F1 or not but I decided on the hybrid, so yours would be perfect. Thanks.

    I haven't seen that book. I did get "Growing Chinese Vegetables" from the store for a Yankee Swap on Christmas and paged through it. It started with how hard the naming is because it comes from so many different sources.