Amazing Asian Greens

Amazing Asian Greens

We grow a wide variety of greens at our farm. Some of them are familiar and relatively easy to use, some of them a bit more unique and/or challenging. This resource is your guide to the latter: your guide to understanding greens in the “Brassica Rapa” Family aka Asian Greens. 

These veggies are cousins to the Kale/Broccoli/Cabbage family but were domesticated in Asia (rather than Europe) during the same time in history! It is called “concurrent domestication.” How cool is that?

We grow many types of Asian greens at our farm, and this guide is created to help you learn how to prepare them. This resource includes information on (and tips for cooking with) all the Asian style greens we grow including baby Asian greens (aka Umami Mix), tatsoi, bok choy, Tokyo bekana, komatsuna, and Napa cabbage. 

If you are looking for more information on staple greens (like kale, chard, collards, and brusselini), be sure to check out our resource Lots O’ Leafy Greens.

Baby Asian greens (aka Umami Mix)

What it is:

We grow a beautiful blend of baby Asian greens that we lovingly called Umami Mix in the spring and fall. This usually consists of a combination of flavorful but never spicy Asian brassica greens and purple baby kale. It is a wonderful tender, yet hearty base mix.

When its grown:

This mix is available at market in May, June, October and sometimes November. Spring and fall CSA members should expect it a few times per season, but it will rarely make it into the summer CSA boxes. 

How to store it:

It can be stored in the bag it comes in, and will last in your fridge for at least a week.

How to use it:

We love this green for salads (or mixed into salads). We think it’s perfect for most raw preparations, but it also can be added to dishes when a quick green is needed. Just toss the leaves into a stir fry whole and wilt it down.

Napa cabbage 

What it is:

Also referred to as Chinese Cabbage, Napa Cabbage is not so different than any other kind of cabbage we grow. It has looser leaves than regular cabbage and a longer, more oblong shape. The leaves and core are more tender, and it’s a bit sweeter and milder in flavor than regular cabbage.

When its grown:

Napa Cabbage is available in late spring (usually May and early June) as well as mid-fall (October is most common). We typically have it available at the farmers’ market for a couple weeks in both the spring and fall. Spring and Summer CSA members should each expect it in their boxes at least once. 

How to store it:

Store cabbage unwashed in the hydrator drawer of your refrigerator with any damaged outer leaves left intact. These outer leaves will be removed before cooking, but help protect the inner leaves from wilting.  It will last at least a week in there.

How to use it:

Napa cabbage is a very versatile vegetable (just like regular cabbage) that can be used easily in soups, stews, quick sautes, and stir fries. The long shape makes it great for rolling. Use it for baked cabbage rolls or as a stand in for spring roll wrappers. If you want to prepare it in an Asian style, it is excellent stuffed into spring rolls, egg rolls, or dumplings.  

Because of its tenderness, Napa Cabbage also works beautifully in raw salads and slaws. Personally, we love to halve or quarter it (leaving the leaves attached to the main stem end for ease), rubbing it with olive oil, and grilling before serving it with a creamy or sesame dressing. It’s one of our favorite summer side dishes. 

Like I said, it’s a tremendously versatile vegetable. This resource from Food52 has 17 more ideas for what to do with it.

Baby bok choy growing under cover.

Bok Choy 

What it is:

Bok choy, sometimes referred to as pac choi, is a traditional Asian stir fry vegetable. It has white or green crunchy, juicy stalks and tender, crisp leaves. We grow different varieties of bok choy on our farm (both with white and green stems) as well as some baby bok choy (which is just more immature with a much more delicate structure).

When its grown:

Bok Choy shares a very similar seasonality to Napa Cabbage, both performing best in cool seasons. Bok choy is prone to bolting when temperatures get too high. Bok choy is available at farmers markets in May, June and October. Spring and Summer CSA members should expect it at similar times. We typically give bok choy 2-3 times per CSA season.

How to store it:

Bok choy stores best in a plastic bag, preferably in the crisper drawer of your fridge. It should last at least a week stored this way. Beyond that it may get wilty, but is still fine for cooked preparations.

How to use it:

We love bok choy greens for salads (or mixed into salads). We think it’s perfect for most raw preparations, but it also can be added to dishes when a quick green is needed. Just toss the leaves into a skillet whole and wilt them down. It’s also a staple vegetable for stir frying and using in Asian noodle dishes.

Though they cook a little differently, we use Napa cabbage and bok choy interchangeably in a lot of recipes. If using the stems, bok choy is a bit more watery than Napa so it will need to be cooked down a little longer. Because of this, salads and slaws with bok choy stems are also best right after you prepare them (as opposed to regular slaws that tend to get better with time).

Bok choy is also our family’s favorite grilling vegetable. Quarter it and grill with some oil on it until the leaves are starting to brown. 

Tokyo bekana 

What it is:

Tokyo bekana is a Chinese leaf cabbage, meaning a cabbage that is loose-headed and less compact. It is often mistaken for lettuce because of the head style and shape, and it is very crisp and tender (more like lettuce than other Asian baby or bunched greens). 

When its grown:

This is a very early and late season crop for us, appearing at markets in May and November. It rarely makes it into the regular Summer CSA boxes, but is commonly given 1-2 times each in the Spring and Fall CSAs.

How to store it:

Because it has a looser leaf structure than regular cabbage, it stores best in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge (much like lettuce). The storage capacity is somewhere between lettuce and cabbage, meaning it should last in your fridge about a week..

How to use it:

This is usually the first leafy stir-fry green of the year for us, which means that’s almost always what we use it for in the spring. Because of its super mild flavor, it’s also a great salad green when chopped. 

Red Komatsuna is the banded vegetable in the center of the box photo.

Tatsoi & Komatsuna

What it is:

Tatsoi looks a lot like bok choy with a longer, greener stem and darker, more bulbous leaf. It’s nicknamed spinach mustard because of the similarity in leaf shape to spinach and the similarity in flavor to a mild mustard green. The leaves are sweet and slightly bitter. The stalks are thick and crunchy.

Komatsuna is often confused for tatsoi because it looks so similar. The main difference is that the leaves are bigger than that of tatsoi and the stems are much thinner and less fibrous. We grow both green and red komatsuna. 

When its grown:

We offer these two mild, bunched Asian greens at early markets in May and in our spring CSA boxes. 

How to store it:

These are among the most perishable things we grow since they are tender and they wilt easily. Use within the week of receiving them and if you are concerned you won’t get to these chop, saute and add to dishes throughout the week. Store in a loose plastic bag in the crisper! 

How to use it:

Tatsoi and komatsuna can be cooked much like any of the other Asian greens (steamed or in a pan over high heat with oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes), but has a very tender texture and mild flavor making it great to add to salads. The red komatsuna is a really beautiful dark purple that adds a beautiful contrast to salads and slaws.

A few very versatile recipes for Asian greens

Photo by: The Forked Spoon

10 Minute Garlic Bok Choy 

Recipe by The Forked Spoon

Yes, this recipe has bok choy in the title but it also works well with Napa cabbage, Tokyo bekana, tatsoi, and komatsuna (or any other green you want to cook down). 

Yield: 6 (side-dish sized) servings 
Time: 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

5 cloves garlic – minced

2 large shallots – minced

2 pounds baby bok choy, halved or quartered

2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional

PREPARATION:

  1. Add the oil to a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the entire surface of the pan.  Add the garlic and shallots, stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.
  2. Add the bok choy, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Toss to coat and cover. Cook for 1-2 minutes, uncover and toss, and then cover and continue to cook until bok choy is cooked to desired doneness (approximately 3-5 minutes more).
  3. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Photo by: NYTimes Cooking

Stir-Fried Chicken and Bok Choy

Recipe by NYTimes Cooking

Just like the recipe above, this is the most versatile Asian green recipe you could ever ask for. You can swap out Napa, Tokyo bekana, tatsoi, and komatsuna for the bok choy, and you can swap out any allium (aka green garlic, garlic scapes, scallions, fresh onion, or cured onion for the leeks). Enjoy!

Yield: 2-3 servings
Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

¾ pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch strips

2 tablespoons finely chopped gingerroot

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

½ pound bok choy (1 head), trimmed and thinly sliced

2 leeks (1/2 pound), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

 Pinch chile flakes

 Salt, as needed

 Cooked rice, for serving

PREPARATION:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar. Pour half the mixture over the chicken, along with half the ginger and half the garlic. Let stand 20 minutes.
  2. Heat a large, 12-inch skillet over high heat until extremely hot, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil and the chicken. Cook, stirring constantly, until meat is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the remaining peanut oil to the skillet. Add the bok choy and cook 1 minute. Stir in the leeks and chili flakes; cook, tossing frequently until bok choy and leeks are tender, about 1 minute. Stir in the marinade and a pinch of salt. Move vegetable mixture to the border of the pan. Add remaining ginger and garlic to center of pan and cook, mashing lightly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return chicken to skillet and combine with ginger, garlic, and vegetables. Serve immediately, over rice.

Photo by: The Leek & The Carrot

Midwest Bok Choy Ramen Salad

Recipe by The Leek & The Carrot

Yield: 2-4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 head bok choy, sliced thinly (stems and greens)

1 bunch radishes, greens removed, cut into matchsticks

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup roasted and salted cashews, roughly chopped

1/4 cup white or black sesame seeds (or a mixture)

Noodles from 1 package of beef ramen

Dressing:

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Flavor packet from 1 package of beef ramen

Pinch Kosher salt

PREPARATION:

  1. In a large bowl, combine bok choy, radishes, scallions, cashews, sesame seeds and ramen noodles. Toss to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until smooth and uniform. Pour over bok choy mixture and stir well to evenly coat. Let sit 15 minutes before eating.

Photo by: Gimme Some Oven

Sesame Noodles

Recipe by Gimme Some Oven

This recipe doesn’t call for any veggies other than scallions, but we love making this all spring long and adding in raw radish, microgreens, or lightly cooked Asian greens (bok choy, Napa cabbage, Tokyo bekana, tatsoi, and komatsuna will all work well!). You can also swap or add green garlic or garlic scapes for the green onions at the end if you like. 

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pound (16 ounces) uncooked pasta (I used linguine)

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce or sriracha

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper

1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions

optional toppings: toasted sesame seeds, extra green onions, extra black pepper

PREPARATION:

  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions in a large stockpot of generously-salted water.
  2. Meanwhile, as the pasta is cooking, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ground ginger, chili garlic sauce, garlic powder and black pepper together in a bowl until combined.
  3. Once the pasta is ready, drain it. Then immediately toss the pasta with the sauce and green onions until combined.
  4. Serve warm or cold, sprinkled with your desired toppings.  Or transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Photo by: Eating Well

Crunchy Bok Choy Slaw

Recipe by Eating Well

Yield: 8 servings
Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons sugar 

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

6 cups very thinly sliced bok choy, (about a 1-pound head, trimmed)

2 medium carrots, shredded

2 scallions, thinly sliced

PREPARATION:

  1. Whisk vinegar, oil, sugar, mustard and salt in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves. 
  2. Add bok choy, carrots and scallions; toss to coat with the dressing.

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