Add an exotic touch to your garden with quick-growing Asian greens. Many of the popular Asian greens such as bok choy, mizuna and tatsoi are excellent sources of calcium, vitamins A, C and K, and fiber. Since many of the Asian greens grow well in cooler weather, autumn is the perfect time to plant them in your garden.
1. Mini bok choy
Mini bok choy, aka toy choy or Shanghai choy (Brassica rapa), is a mini version of bok choy. It’s a hearty green that has a taste similar to cabbage with a slight peppery bite. The leaves of toy choy are tender and crisp, while the stalks are crunchy, firm and juicy. It’s great to use in a stir fry, braised or sauteed with garlic or even chopped up in a hearty soup. The leaves can also be eaten raw in a mixed green salad.
How to grow toy choy
Direct sow the seeds in late summer for an early fall harvest. The seeds will germinate in five to 10 days and you can harvest in as little as 30 days. The plants will grow to about five inches tall. Toy choy grows well in containers, too.
Photo credit: Joshua Bousel
Mizuna (Brassica rapa nipposinica) is a mildly spicy mustard green with a spicy tang. The leaves of mizuna are feathery while the stalks are crisp. Use mizuna in salads or lightly saute it.
How to grow mizuna
Direct sow seeds at any point after the last frost. Mizuna tolerates the heat of summer and some cold conditions if you live in a mild climate. Seeds will germinate in five to 10 days, and you can harvest greens in less than a month. Sow a row every three weeks or so to get a continuous harvest throughout late fall and into early winter.
Photo credit: Jessica and Lon Binder
Tatsoi (Brassica narinosa) is a slightly bitter green also known as Japanese spinach. This is the most nutritious of the bok choy family. It’s high in calcium and vitamins. Stir fry tatsoi or add it to soups.
How to grow tatsoi
Sow seeds in late summer. The seeds germinate in five to 10 days and are ready to harvest in about 45 days. Tatsoi is very cold tolerant. It can withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees. It’s a perfect crop to have in your fall and winter garden.
Photo credit: Intentions Court (translation)
Chrysanthemum greens (Chrysanthemum coronarium) are rich in vitamin B. The taste is tangy, herbal and a bit grassy. The flowers of the plant can be used as a garnish in soups and salads. Cook the young leaves like you would spinach or use them raw in a salad.
How to grow chrysanthemum
Sow seeds in the fall. This flower is a hardy annual and definitely prefers cooler conditions. It grows well in slightly cold climates. The seeds will germinate in six to 10 days and are harvestable as baby greens. The plant will reach full maturity in 45 days.
5. Chinese broccoli
Chinese broccoli (Brassica oleracaea) is the stronger, flowered cousin of standard broccoli. The leaves, stalks and flowers are all edible. The leaves have a similar texture to collards and can hold up to braising and blanching. Braised Chinese broccoli tastes great when served with a drizzle of oyster sauce.
How to grow Chinese broccoli
Sow seeds in early fall. The seeds germinate in five to 10 days. You can harvest the main stalk when it reaches eight inches and there are two or three open flowers. The plant will continue to branch out and produce smaller stems and leaves for a later harvest. Mature Chinese broccoli can withstand light frost.
Asian greens do well in moist, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. Make sure the site is sunny and amend the soil with compost before planting. Most of these seeds probably will not be available for purchase at a big-box retail store, but they are readily available at online seed retailers like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Botanical Interests and Baker Creek Seeds.