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Asian greens are the stars of many fall vegetable gardens. If you’ve never grown tatsoi, pak choi, or other Asian greens, give them a try because they will germinate fast in warm, late-summer soil. Turn over a new leaf and learn more about types of Asian greens!
Way down south, August means planting another round of warm-weather crops, but where temperatures aren’t so hot, we need to pay close attention to the date of our first autumn killing frost—when temps get below 29°F—to decide what we can safely grow and harvest before the season comes to an end!
Root crops like turnips and radishes are quick to mature, taking only about 30 days to reach an edible size and not being bothered by a light frost or two. It might even enhance their flavor. Beets and carrots take a bit longer, but if you mulch them well to keep the ground from freezing, in most parts of the country they have time to produce some tasty roots before it gets too cold for them to continue growing.
The Green Scene
Greens are the real stars of the fall vegetable garden. Leaf lettuce and spinach are the most popular fall greens, but their seeds won’t germinate well if soil temperatures are above 75°F, so start them indoors or in a container in a shady spot outside. Once they are up and growing, transplant them into their new beds.
Mache, also called corn salad, is an extremely hardy green that stands up to freezing temperatures. Eaten cooked or raw, it has a nutty flavor and soft texture. Like lettuce and spinach, it won’t germinate in warm soil either.
Kale is a winter staple. Most varieties give you edible leaves in about 40 days and it can stay in the garden until temperatures drop below 20°F. Easy to grow, kale germinates fast in warm soil, popping up in 3 to 6 days.
For something new and different, give these Asian greens a try. Some are sweet and mild while others have a mustardy tang. Since they are grown in many different Asian countries, they are often called by different names, but their growth is the same. All are in the brassica family, related to kale, broccoli, mustard greens, and cabbage, so they will germinate fast in warm, late summer soil.
Pac choi ‘Asian Delight’ was an AAS winner in 2018
Bok choy or pac choi
My favorite! We grow dwarf ‘Asian Delight’ and maroon-leaved ‘Purple Lady’. They are ready to pick in 45 days. Chopped and stir fried in oil or broth with garlic they are very mild tasting and make a quick, delicious side dish.
Gai lan should be harvested when young for crisp and tender consistency.
Gai lan or kailaan
If you like broccoli raab, you will love gai lan, which is a type of Chinese broccoli. Look for ‘Green Jade’ or its hybrids since they have the thickest stems. Cut the stalks, leaves, and flower buds and eat them lightly steamed. It is ready for the first harvest in about 3 weeks and the more you cut it, the more it branches. Some varieties are more pungent than others.
Like all these Asian greens, tatsoi can be grown in a container or grow bag as well as in the garden.
With spoon-shaped dark green leaves on crisp white stems, tatsoi has a mild, peppery flavor; the young leaves are ready to pick in about 21 days and are excellent in salad. Fully mature in about 45 days, it has a buttery texture when lightly cooked.
Choy sum is similar in appearance to gai lan, with more of a juicy, sweet taste.
Choy sum (or Choi sum)
Choy sum has a very sweet and tender flowering brassica, like broccoli. Eat it before the buds fully open for the best flavor. Start harvesting baby leaves in 3 weeks or whole stalks in 6 weeks. Like gai lan it produces more branches after you cut it.
Mibuna grows in tall clumps.
A traditional Japanese vegetable, mibuna has clusters of 1 foot tall, narrow dark green leaves. They have a slight mustardy flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. Baby leaves are ready to cut in 3 weeks.
Like most greens, mizuna can be grown hydroponically.
A gourmet salad green, mizuna has white stems and frilly green leaves. Fast growing, it is ready to eat in 20 days. There are varieties such as ‘Central Red’ that have purple stems and ‘Red Kingdom’ which has thicker leaves. All are mildly flavored.
Komatsuna can be eaten raw or cooked.
Often called spinach mustard, the leaves get hotter and more pungent as they mature. Popular in Japan where it is eaten steamed or in stir fry, it can also be picked as a baby green and eaten in salad. There are red-leaved varieties too, just don’t over cook them if you want to keep the red color. Another fast growing green, the baby leaves are ready to pick at 3 to 6 inches tall in 3 weeks or as mature plants in 6 weeks.
Protecting from Pests
Since these greens are all in the brassica family they share the same pests as cabbage and broccoli. Thankfully, pests tend to be less of a problem in late summer than earlier in the season. Still, to protect your baby seedlings from flea beetles and cabbage worms, cover them with lightweight row covers and wrap the plant stems with protective collars to deter cutworms.
If you are trying to get more leafy greens into your diet, all these greens are extremely healthy. Low in calories they are high in Vitamins A and C, potassium, and calcium. Add something new to your diet this fall.