We may all be familiar with Asian greens from eating in restaurants, but we don't often grow them in our gardens. They are members of the brassica family, along with broccoli, cabbage and kale. Most are grown for their leaves, which makes them easier to grow than brassicas grown for their flower buds.
Most are very quick growing, particularly during the cooler seasons. You can usually get at least 2 plantings per year and some can be succession planted, for a longer season. They can be... planted densely and thinned and eaten as they grow. Most can be harvested as cut-and-come-again greens.
Fall is an especially good time to seed some plants. They enjoy the shortening days and damp weather. They are even frost tolerant, so you could be harvesting and enjoying Asian greens for several months. As with other leafy greens, Asian greens need plenty of water. If grown in rows, mulch between plants. They have fewer pests than other brassicas, but they can be bothered by slugs, flea beetles and cabbage caterpillars. Here are some to try.
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Bok Choy (Pak Choi)This is probably the Asian green that is most familiar to Americans. Bok choy is a non-heading cabbage. Although we are used to seeing pale stems chopped in Chinese dishes, there are actually a lot of varieties available, from green leaves with white or green ribs to yellow and red tinged leaves. Some are tiny, quickly maturing at no more than 5 inches, and some grow over a foot tall.
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Chinese Cabbage (Napa Cabbage)You may know this green as Napa cabbage. It's available in every grocery store and is popularly used in cole slaw, but is far more versatile. Chinese cabbage takes a bit longer to grow than the leafy greens and is a good choice for fall gardens, when it can grow and head without worrying about the weather heating up.
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MizunaThis mild flavored mustard that is quite commonly grown for commercial salad mixes, to add a pleasant sharpness. Mizuna grows virtually problem free and is a great choice for a cut-and-come-again green. Although it is often eaten raw, it is crisp enough to hold up to gentle cooking. Mizuna comes in green and purple-leafed varieties.
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Also called spoon cabbage, because of its spoon-shaped leaves, is a relative of bok choy. The flavor is a bit more intense and itcan be a slower grower than most Asian greens, but it is extremely hardy (-20 F) and a great choice for over-wintering in a cold frame or hoop house.
There are many more Asian greens to experiment with in your garden. Fun Jen and Tokyo Bekana are simliar to Chinese cabbage, but are even easier to grow because they don't form heads. The mustards, like 'Osaka... Purple' often self-sow, if allowed to go to seed.
In particular, Shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium), has very aromatic, spicy leaves and orange and yellow edible flowers. It is also known as chop suey greens or garland chrysanthemum, although it is not the same as the ornamental chrysanthemums we grow in the flower bed.