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Bok choy (photo courtesy of Burpee Home Gardens)
Bok choy (photo courtesy of Burpee Home Gardens)

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Zones A1-A3, 1-45, H1, H2

Asian greens

Annuals, Vegetables

The annual vegetables in this large group are mainstays of stir-fry dishes and excellent in salads. They are primarily quick-maturing cool-season crops planted at the same time as other cool-season vegetables: late winter to early spring for spring-to-summer harvest, late summer to early fall for harvest in fall and winter. In areas with short growing seasons and in mild-summer coastal regions, they can be grown all summer. Many Asian greens, especially the mustards, are attractive foliage plants that make a colorful addition to the vegetable garden and also look good mixed with flowering annuals and spring bulbs.

Listed here are some of the most common Asian greens (specialty seed catalogs may carry additional kinds). For planting depth and row spacing, follow the instructions on the seed packet.

Broadleaf mustard (dai gai choy).
Large green leaves with a pungent, somewhat bitter, mustard-like flavor that gets stronger as the plant matures. Hot weather or inadequate moisture also increases pungency. Best used in soup to tone down the sharp flavor. Thin or transplant seedlings to 10 in. apart. Harvest plants when they are loose headed and 10–14 in. high, about 65 days after sowing.

Chinese broccoli (gai lohn). Similar in flavor and texture to standard broccoli, but with a slight pungency like that of mustard. Thin or transplant seedlings to 10 in. apart. Harvest central stalk and side shoots when stalk is 8–10 in. tall or when flower buds just begin to form, usually about 70 days after sowing.

Chinese mustard greens (gai choy). Milder member of the mustard family. Thin or transplant seedlings to 10 in. apart. Harvest the first greens when the plants are 2 in. high; continue harvesting until leaves turn tough or bitter. It usually takes 45 days after sowing for plants to reach mature height of 6–8 in.

Chinese white cabbage (bok choy, pak choi). One of the more familiar Asian greens. Tender, crisp, sweet, very mild; good alone, with meat, in soups and stir-fries. Many varieties are sold. Tatsoi is similar but more compact. Thin or transplant seedlings to 6–12 inches apart. Harvest approximately 50 days after sowing seed, when plants are loose headed and 10–12 in. tall.

Flowering cabbage (yao choy, choy sum, ching sow sum). Tender, delicate, broccoli-type vegetable. Thin or transplant seedlings to about 6 in. apart. Harvest about 60 days after sowing, when 8–12 in. high.

Mizuna. Mild-flavored, leafy vegetable with finely cut, frilly, white-stemmed leaves. Great in salads. Thin or transplant seedlings to 8–10 in. apart. Start cutting leaves when plants are a few inches tall or wait until mature at 8–10 in. high, about 40 days after sowing.

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