| Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

We are growing an increasing number of Asian Greens this fall – they tend to germinate quickly from seed; reach early maturity and can also be harvested at a tender, baby stage; have good market acceptance; are pretty in the field and on the table in a wide array of sizes and textures. They are power-packed with nutrition but very few calories — rich in antioxidants (in particular of vitamin C), iron, calcium, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, and folates, Oh, and also they are DELICIOUS! Most are in the brassica family (kale, broccoli, cabbage, mustard) and have a mild mustard flavor. Others are mild with juicy stalks akin to celery.

Plant Asian Greens through early October – stagger plantings, if you begin now, to extend the harvest. Do not plant where you have grown brassicas in the past three years. Add a liberal amount of organic matter to the soil in preparing and feed with a complete organic fertilizer preferably including boron (a little dab will do you). Keep well-watered during the germination phase and through the growing period. Below is a lineup of some of the standouts in our fall garden – you may find most of these on seed racks at your garden center or niche grocery store, or you can order from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, High Mowing, Sow True, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Fedco, and/or Seeds of Change.

Komatsuna – Also called spinach mustard, Komatsuna has dark green leaves that are rich in calcium and often quite glossy. They can be harvested at any stage and prepared like spinach in the early stages. This versatile green can be stir-fried, pickled, boiled and added to soups or used fresh in salads.

Yukina Savoy – Large, crinkled, savoyed leaves. Plant habit is similar to Tatsoi, but more upright and vigorous for improved baby leaf yields. At full size the thick, savoyed leaves are held upright on pale green petioles. Delicious steamed or stir-fried.

Hon Tsai Tai – A Chinese specialty also known as Kailaan. The young plants soon branch and produce quantities of long, pencil-thin, red-purple, budded flower stems. Pleasing, mild mustard taste for use raw in salads or lightly cooked in stir-fries or soups.

Mibuna – Easy-to-grow Japanese green similar to Mizuna but with long, rounded leaves instead of serrated. Long white stems are born in rosettes reaching 12” tall. Perfect lightly cooked and seasoned, steamed, or stir fried. Mild enough to be added to any salad with health benefits akin to Mizuna.

Mizuna – A mild, slightly sweet Japanese green with slender white stems and bright green, deeply serrated leaves. Mild in flavor, it is good for stir-fries, salads, sandwiches and soup. It means “water vegetable” in Japanese with its juicy stalks. Low in calories, high in folic acid, high in vitamin A and carotenoids, high in vitamin C, and contains glucosinolates which are antioxidants that help prevent certain cancers.

Purple Mizuna – Purple veined leaves are sharply serrated and slow bolting. Color is most pronounced in late summer harvests. Mild in flavor and adds a distinctive look to salad mixes.

Tatsoi – Fast growing green, most popular as a baby leaf for salad and braising mixes or bunch at full size. Spoon shaped leaves are dark green and glossy with thin white stems. We had a dynamite casserole last year at the Carolina Farm Stewardship banquet – tatsoi and spinach, where the chefs used our tatsoi.

Bok Choy (aka Pak Choi) – We grow three varieties: Prize Choy which has great taste, color, and crunch; Shanghai which is smaller in stature and can be harvested in the baby stage for stir-frying, soups, or salads; and White-Stemmed which has little retail inspiration with its gangly, floppy growth habit but has a rich buttery taste – we’re going to harvest it in the baby stage this fall. Both the leaves and stems are edible and can be used in stir frying with garlic, olive oil, and a hint of soy sauce; braising, grilled, or simmering in soups.

Chinese Cabbage is also known as Napa Cabbage (having nothing to do with the California wine region). It is barrel-shaped with tightly-arranged crinkly, light green leaves and tastes mild, and crunchy. It is loaded with nutrients and extremely low in calories and high in fiber. There is an array of antioxidant compounds that protect against various cancers and bad cholesterol, an excellent source of folates, Vitamin C and K, as well as many essential vitamins.

Have a healthy and happy fall!

Larry Newlin, farmer Peaceful River Farm, Chapel Hill, NC