Asian greens may look exotic, but most are easy to grow in your own vegetable garden. Tatsoi (pronounced taht-SOY), is a non-heading mustard that is very similar in flavor to bok choi. Tatsoi plants tend to grow in a flatter rosette than bok choi, with long, spoon-shaped leaves. You may find them sold loose leaf or bunched together like celery. If you'd like to try your hand at growing tatsoi, you'll be pleased to learn how undemanding it is. As with most of the Asian greens, it grows quickly, with few problems.
- Leaves: Leaves grow in a low, somewhat flattened rosette. The crisp stalks are a pale green and the spoon-shaped leaves are much darker.
- Flowers: Tatsoi flowers have the familiar 4-petal cross of plants in the cruciferous family.
Brassica rapa subsp. narinosa
Tatsoi, Tah Tsai, Spoon mustard, Spinach mustard, Rosette bok choy,
Tatsoi grows best in partial sun, about 3 - 5 hours each day is ideal but it can handle full sun if it is kept well watered.
Full-size heads will grow to about 8 - 10 inches tall. Spread depends on whether the leaves are flattened or upright, but figure about 12 inches per plant.
Days to Harvest
You can start harvesting tatsoi leaves when they are about 4 inches long. Dwarf tatsoi matures in 20 - 25 days. Full-size tatsoi takes 40 - 50 days.
To harvest the whole head, slice the plants off about an inch above the ground and they should re-sprout for you. The new plants will be smaller, but still delicious.
Although there are named varieties of tatsoi, you will probably only find seed packets in stores that are labeled simply Tatsoi and those can have either white or green stalks. There is a nice savoyed variety that grows a little larger and more upright. Specialty seed catalogs may offer the following:
- "Black Summer" - Plant in fall and harvest into winter. Very dark leaves.
- "Ching-Chiang" - A quick growing dwarf variety that can handle early spring weather.
- "Joi Choi" - A medium-sized plant with good bolt resistance.
- "Mei Qing Choi" - Dwarf variety with quick growing (35 days), tight, green heads.
- "Win-Win" - Extra large, dense heads. Slow to bolt.
Using Tatsoi in Cooking
Tatsoi has slightly more of a tangy mustard flavor than bok choy. It is often found in salad mixes and can be cooked in any dish where you would use bok choy - stir-fries, soups, and side dishes. The mild and tender baby leaves taste very similar to spinach and would be a good substitute when it is too warm to grow spinach plants.
Tatsoi Growing Tips
Planting: You can direct sow or start seed indoors about 4 - 5 weeks before your last frost date. Begin sowing outdoors after your last frost date. Don't rush it; young plants will bolt if they experience too much cold weather. Seeds are quick to germinate, usually within 4 - 8 days.
Plant seed 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep, spaced 1 inch apart. Thin and eat the plants when they are a couple of inches tall. If you are growing full-sized plants, thin to a 6 - 8-inch spacing.
Fall-grown tatsoi usually does better than seed sown in the spring. Besides the greater chance of the seedlings experiencing cold temperatures or frost in the spring causing them to bolt, there are also fewer insect pests in the fall.
Tatsoi has the odd habit of growing flat in cold weather, but more upright in heat.
Caring for Tatsoi Plants
As with most leafy vegetables, tatsoi needs regular watering or it will bolt to seed. If your soil is rich, you should not need to feed the plants. Otherwise, use a fertilizer high in nitrogen.
You can succession plant tatsoi every couple of weeks, for a longer harvest period. Stop planting when the weather turns hot, then start new plants for the fall in late summer.
Plants in the brassica family do not cross-pollinate with plants outside their species. Seed can be saved for up to 4 years.
Pests & Problems of Tatsoi Plants
Tatsoi is generally disease free, but insects love its tender leaves. Cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and flea beetles can riddle the leaves in spring unless the plants are protected with row covers. The ground-hugging leaves are extremely attractive to slugs. Whiteflies and aphids are less of a problem.
If you enjoy growing tatsoi, here are some more cole crops to try growing