The Joy of Choi; Asian Greens in Southern Gardens

I have been growing Asian greens for many years and I can’t imagine planting a Fall or Spring garden without them. Bok Choy or Pac Choy are probably the most well known Asian Greens, and are great crops. But there are hosts of other greens from the Orient that are easy to grow and delicious.

I have had great success with many Chois, or Choys? It’s spelled differently according to variety and who you are asking. Bok choy, Pak Choi, Joi Choi are all in the Brassica family. But, unlike their cousin the common cabbage, they are fast-growing and heat tolerant. They also have considerably greater disease and pest resistance than their round headed cousin.

I have learned to fill the empty spaces in the early fall Gardens with Asian greens instead of struggling with other weaker temperamental greens that wilt in the extreme southern heat. In September and October, temperatures sometimes soar in the mid-90s, causing spotty germination of lettuce seeds and stunted growth of cooking greens. If we wait until the temperatures have cooled off enough for ideal growing conditions, we might be waiting until thanksgiving some years to plant our fall crops. Asian greens, however, don’t seem to mind our extreme fluctuations in Fall temperatures.

Asian Greens are also some of the first vegetables to be harvested from our early Spring gardens. I plant Celtuce (Sword Leaf Lettuce), Baby Pac Choi and Tatsoi in the Spring Garden. They are all much slower to bolt than other members of the Brassica family. Bundles of Spring Pac-Choy tied with Garlic Scapes are a great garden fresh side dish when not much else is producing.


Bok choy and it’s closest kin (Joi  and Pac), are not the only Asian greens that earn a place in our Fall and Spring gardens. I try new Asian varieties of greens every year, and I’m continually amazed by how well they do in the deep south. Some are cooking greens and others, tender mild salad greens. There seem to be countless varieties of Asian Greens to serve different purposes and they all seem pretty effortless to grow. I am currently growing a salad green that I purchase seeds for at an Asian market. They were labeled vaguely as “Chinese Cabbage”. I would label them “Big leaved lightning fast salad bowl filler”. They are mild, perfect in salads, and faster than any salad green I’ve ever grown. These super fast greens may be a type of Tokyo Bekana.  Other fabulous greens worth mentioning are Tatsoi or Komatsuna Mustard greens. They are milder than most mustard greens and can be used as a substitute for spinach.

Asian greens are not only fun to grow, they are fun to experiment with in the kitchen. We do enjoy plenty of them in traditional stir fried dishes. But, they can also be roasted, grilled, tossed in to soups, and rolled up in fresh rolls. These fabulous crops are a great way to add plenty of vitamins and minerals to your diet. They are loaded with Vitamins A, C and K, and are also a great source of folate and iron. Delicious, Nutritious and Easy to grow, they should earn a place in every Fall, Winter and Spring garden.



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