Garden Harvest Spotlight: Asian Greens

by Erin Enouen

Perhaps the unsung heroes of the vegetable patch, Asian Greens are the first and last greens we sow and harvest each year. With so much diversity in a single species, there is much to love in this category.

IMG_6172 (Medium)How to plant: Generally, Asian Greens should be directly sown. Most Asian greens take 3-6 weeks from seeding to harvest. Prepare soil by working in plenty of organic matter. Sow seeds 1-2" apart, in rows spaced 12" apart.

Transplanting allows you to get an early start in the spring. Start seeds indoors 4 weeks prior to desired planting date. Transplant individual plants 4-6 inches apart. For best results, start only the larger Asian greens indoors: Tatsoi, Tokyo Bekana, Bok Choy, Baby Bok Choy, Komatsuna, and any mustard are good choices.

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How to grow: Asian greens thrive in cool temperatures but tolerate the heat of summer if grown as a baby leaf. Start outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked and keep sowing in successions until the end of summer. All Asian greens are susceptible to flea beetle damage, so keep covered with row cover if flea beetles are an issue. Row cover can also be used at the beginning or the end of the season with plantings as a season extension tool. Excessive heat and moisture can cause yellowing and damping off--encourage good air flow with proper spacing.

IMG_6169-MediumUses: Plant different Asian greens at different times based on use and climate.

Tatsoi, Mibuna, and Mizuna are the most cold tolerant. Plant them first and last in the season. Use hoops and row cover to have fresh greens into winter.

Red Streaks Mizuna, Mibuna, Mizuna, Red Giant Mustard and Hon Tsai Tai all make excellent baby leaves. Mix them with other lettuces and salad greens for a delectable summer salad treat. Space seeds 1-2 inches apart and harvest when leaves are 2-3 inches high.

Tokyo Bekana, Tatsoi, Komatsuna, Hon Tsai Tai, Bok Choy, Baby Bok Choy, Shanghai Green Bok Choy and all mustards grow into a nice, leafy head. Space plants 8-10 inches apart so they can reach maturity.

How to harvest: If cutting baby greens, cut when leaves are 3" tall, leaving about 1/2" of the plant above the ground. Leave the plants to regrow and repeat cutting 1-2 times for "cut and come again."

If harvesting heads, harvest promptly when mature, at the base of the plant. They will start to go to seed shortly after reaching their peak harvest stage, except in the cool months of early fall.

IMG_4143-MediumHow to cook: Most Asian greens are very tender, and can be eaten raw when young. When mature, they only need a quick, light cooking to wilt the greens. Thick stemmed varieties such as bok choy and tatsoi need a few more minutes. Popular seasoning are any combination of ginger, chili, garlic, sweetener, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, basil, cilantro, lemon juice and miso.

Most Asian greens make an excellent addition to a braised greens mix. Mix any variety with kale, spinach, chard, broccoli greens, and/or raab, steam all together, then drain, chop and dress with garlic, lemon juice and plenty of olive oil.

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