Make Some Space For Them In Your Garden.
As the Asian population of the United States continues to grow Asian or oriental vegetables continue to gain in popularity. The gain in popularity is also driving their availability with a large selection of these vegetables becoming easier to obtain. Not only are physical veggies easier to obtain seeds are also finding a way to gardens all across the US.
So here’s a thought for you. Next year when you start deciding on what plants you’re going to place in your garden or raise your greenhouse consider inserting a few Asian vegetables into the mix. A good number of them are related to the cabbage family which makes them easy to grow especially in the cooler seasons, such as spring and fall. Below we have provided you with a list of veggies you might want to consider, but take note the list is by no means exhaustive, so you might want to do a little investigation to find other varieties.
Let’s explore some of what’s available…
Chinese Broccoli (Brassica family) – While being thinner and leafier than broccoli all of it (stems, leaves and flower buds) can be eaten. The plant is also cut and come again as long as you leave some young leaves at the bottom. Use any time you would use normal broccoli. As of this writing it appears that two varieties are readily available for purchase.
Bok Choy or Pak Choy (Brassica family) – This relative of the cabbage has long white stalks with dark green leaves. They are also cultivated similar to a cabbage and planted in early spring or fall. Both the leaves and stems can be used either cooked or raw. At least 10 seed varieties are currently available.
Mizuna (Brassica family) – Mizuna is originally from Japan and is a mustard green. The green also is a fast grower maturing in 35 days and tolerates heat well. The plant is also a cut and come again plant and with successive plantings you will never be at a loss. There are currently 10 varieties available and are known as Japanese greens.
Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) – These can be grown the same as cucumbers and will take to trellising well. The plants require warm temperatures, a full sun location and lots of water. Melons can be used in stir fry and other Asian dishes. There are at least 19 different varieties presently available in seed form.
Chinese Okra (aka Luffa) – The young fruits, leaves, blossoms and seeds can all be used in cooking with the fully mature fruits being skinned and used as sponges. Pick all fruit at around 6 inches long for eating purposes. There are at least 13 different varieties that are fast-growing and are very partial to warm climates.
Daikon (Brassica family) – Some of these radishes can reach up to 2 feet long and be 3 inches in diameter, so you will want some deep, rich soil to grow these. They have a mild spicy flavor and can be added to salads, sauces and seafood stir fries. At least 23 varieties are currently available.
Edamame (Fabaceae family) – This veggie is also called green soybeans or edible soybeans. The plants are bushy and produce short green pods that are harvested when both the pods and the beans are bright green. To serve cook the pods by boiling and then split the pod removing the beans. At least four varieties are currently available.
Long Bean (Fabaceae family) – This one may not be for everybody since it is a subtropical plant. Once planted though in a suitable climate this one is a stellar grower. The pods can reach up to 38 inches long and sometimes grow so fast that they need to be checked daily for harvesting. The pods need to be harvested for they become totally mature and have a taste similar to asparagus. Use this one predominantly in stir fries or sautéed. There are currently at least 10 varieties available.
Napa Cabbage (Brassica family) – The Napa is probably the most popular of the Chinese cabbages and is readily available in stores. The cabbage itself is compact, delicately flavored and is grown like any other cabbage and matures in 75 days. You can use it just about anywhere that you would use any other cabbage. Currently it appears that there are at least 11 varieties available in seed form for planting.
Oriental Mustard (Brassica family) – These mustards can be loose leaf or heading and can mature in anywhere from 45 to 75 days. The loose leaf plants are great for spicing up stir fries, soups and salads with the heading types generally used in pickling. There are many varieties available with at least 16 purchasable as seeds for planting.
Shungiku (Asteraceae family) – Commonly known as edible chrysanthemum it is grown mainly for its edible leaves but the flowers can also be eaten. The plant is also considered a self-sewing annual but is generally planted in mid spring. Use in salads or stir fries. Five varieties are currently listed for sale as seeds for planting.
Winged Bean (Fabaceae family) – Like most beans this one is a vining plant that produces pods that have four winged edges. Almost all parts of the plant are edible with the leaves tasting like spinach and the pods are great fresh or cooked. The roots can also be cooked and possess a nutty flavor. Be aware though that these seeds generally only produce 50 to 60% germination rates due to their thick coating and will need to be soaked for one to two days prior to planting to determine which ones will soak up water (swelling) and germinate. Right now it looks like 2 varieties are available as seeds for planting.
Asian Squash (Cucurbita family) – Lots to choose from here with at least 16 varieties available. Grow and use similar to any other squash. With the large amount of different varieties available you will probably be able to find whatever you’re looking for.
Asian Eggplant (Solanum melongena) – These are definitely different than the eggplants you may be used to with most of them being long and thin in nature. Grow them the same way you would any eggplant though and use them in stir frying, for stuffing and tempura all with skins on. Presently I see at least 30 varieties available for planting.
Snow Pea or Sugar Snap (Macrocarpon family) – most people are familiar with this veggie since it has been available forever. It is a cool season plant and it should be planted in early spring. Harvest the snow peas while they are still flat and sugar snaps when they are full and round. Eat them raw or stir fry. Numerous varieties are available; check your local Home Depot or Lowe’s since they are easy to come by.
Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) – What could be simpler than chives? Simply plant them, forget them and they’ll take off and do their thing. As a matter fact in areas that don’t get a whole bunch of super cold weather or snow you can have access to these all winter long. Simply cut what you need for use on scrambled eggs, baked potato, tomatoes, fried rice or even a salad. There are three varieties to choose from at the present time.
Kohlrabi (Brassica family) – This veggie is very similar to a turnip with one major exception; it grows above ground instead of below it. The bulb itself can grow from 2 to 8 inches (depending on variety) in diameter, is resistant to frost and matures in about 65 days. Kohlrabi is similar to broccoli and texture but is sweeter and is frequently used in slaws or salad. I was able to track down six varieties that are available in seed form.
Baby Corns (Poaceae family) – We’ve all seen those baby corns when dining out at a Chinese restaurant. Well now you can grow your own from seeds that were specifically meant for this veggie. A lot of baby corns are grown from regular corn and then harvested very early when the ears are still small. This sometimes results in low quality. These plants should be grown the same as regular corn and harvested early when silk appears on the ear. These are great for pickling and stir fry.
So there you have it 18 Oriental vegetables that you can grow in your garden this coming season. Now remember this not an exhaustive list and there are many other items available such as Rosette Tatsoi Greens, Asian leaf lettuce and Mandarin Cross tomatoes to name just a few. An excellent source for a wide selection of Asian vegetable seeds is Evergreen Seeds.
Now that we’ve given you some food for thought consider leaving some space for just a few of these when planning your garden for this upcoming season.