Create a stir with homegrown leafy vegies full of exotic flavour
Branch out and create your own stir-fry garden at home. Image: Thinkstock
From Thai and Chinese to Vietnamese and Malaysian, Australians love Asian food.
Whether we’re whipping up a stir-fry or going out for sushi or yum cha, we just can’t get enough.
And the good news for Asian food buffs is that the greens they love to eat, like bok choy, tatsoi and Chinese broccoli or cabbage, are easy to grow.
Plant seeds now and you’ll have an organic stir-fry garden in weeks. If space is limited, you can also grow them in pots in a sunny position.
The flowers of all Asian greens are edible and make pretty garnishes.
Not only are they easy to grow, fast to crop and tasty, these greens are good for your health. Rich in folate, vitamins C and K, betacarotene, potassium, magnesium and calcium, they’re also low in kilojoules.
Asian greens belong to the Brassicaceae family, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale.
All members of this plant family, according to considerable research, are reputed to prevent cancer and are potentially anti-inflammatory.
TIP Grow Mr Fothergill’s Sprouts Alive! Asian Greens Mix to add to oriental-style salads.
One of the most indispensable stir-fry ingredients, spring onions are easily grown in a sunny spot from seeds or seedlings, in pots and garden beds.
They self-sow easily, so let one of them go to seed to get more plants for free.
What to grow
A fast-growing Asian green with tender and crunchy pale green or white stalks, bok choy is also called Chinese white cabbage and pak choi. Pick it while young or wait about six weeks for it to mature.
USE in noodle dishes, soups and stir-fries. Add young leaves to salads or steam whole and serve with oyster sauce and sesame oil.
Bok choy is also called Chinese white cabbage and pak choi. Image: Thinkstock
The deep-green leaves of tatsoi, or Chinese flat green cabbage, have a slightly nutty flavour. To pick continuously, remove the outside leaves from the rosette separately.
USE the young leaves in salads to add crunch. Steam the leaves and stalks and season with soy sauce and garlic. Lightly cook in stir-fries or add to soups at the last moment.
Tatsoi is also called Chinese flat green cabbage
This popular Asian green, also called choi-san and Chinese soup green, has large leaves and delicate tasting stems. Harvest while young or allow it to mature. You can eat the entire plant, including the small yellow flowers.
USE the stems and leaves in soups. Steam and serve as a side dish or add it to stir-fries.
Choy sum is also called choi-san and Chinese soup green. Image: Thinkstock
Known as Chinese kale, kai lan and gai lan, this green produces much smaller flower rosettes than the common broccoli. It is harvested about nine weeks after sowing, just before the flowers start to open.
USE the whole plant, including the stem, leaves and flowers. Add to stir-fries, or steam and serve with soy sauce and fried garlic as a side.
Chinese broccoli is also known as Chinese kale, kai lan and gai lan. Image: Alamy
Also called wong bok and nappa cabbage, this variety forms a densely packed head of fine textured and crinkly leaves that are blanched in the centre. There are varieties that are ready for harvest in 10 weeks.
USE its sweet, delicate tasting leaves as a wrap or base for steaming fish, in coleslaw and Asian salads, or add at the end to soups and stir-fries.
Chinese cabbage is also called called wong bok and nappa cabbage. Image: Thinkstock
Mizuna, or Japanese mustard, is a milder-flavoured variety while mibuna is slightly stronger. The large-leafed red mustard is hot, especially the older leaves. Treat them as a cut-and-come-again crop, picking the outer leaves first.
USE the young leaves to give tang to Asian salads. Put barbecued fish on a bed of raw mustard leaves.
Mustard greens are also known as mizuna, or Japanese mustard. Image: Alamy
Asian greens grow very easily from seed and transplanted seedlings will often bolt to seed.
SOW seeds directly where they are to grow. Choose a position that gets 5-6 hours of sun a day and seedlings will appear in just a few days.
If you sow the seeds too thickly, the seedlings can be thinned and the young leaves used in salad mixes.
SOIL should be free draining and enriched with manure or compost before planting.
WATER daily to keep the plants growing quickly and to prevent them bolting to seed.
MULCH the soil with lucerne hay or pea straw to help retain moisture.
FEED weekly with a soluble plant food when the seedlings have reached about 100mm high.
HARVEST while the plants are young. Most Asian greens reach their full size in about eight weeks.
CHECK for caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly, as they eat the leaves.
Use an organic spray insecticide like Eco-Neem or sprinkle Derris Dust on the foliage to deal with the caterpillars.
Snails and slugs will also munch on Asian greens, so use beer traps or environmentally friendly snail bait.
Fast-growing greens like Chinese broccoli crop in just two months