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Asian greens add flair to the holidays

You could be harvesting fresh collards, kale, broccoli, lettuces, onions, carrots, cilantro, baby beets and Asian greens of all varieties now if you planted in early October. It is a good time to repeat the exact same planting now for a succession of the same vegetables to be available through the beginning of next year. The weather has been magnificent.

There is an abundant variety of Asian greens available in the U.S. This hopefully will guide you on how to use them.

Oriental gardens can be constructed by mounding soil to produce six- inch high raised beds that ensure good drainage. The raised bed also helps put the crops in easy reach. Fertilize these crops as you would do any other. They do love water, but do not over water them this time of the year.

A few “Asian greens” varieties are:

Bok choy, pak choi, or bak choi leaves and stems are edible. Baby bok choy is a wonderful addition to salads and stir fries. If you drop it whole into already boiling water for less than a minute, then pull it out, either cool it off or use it in warm dishes, it will keep its shape and color, lots of fun. One of the most delicately flavored Asian greens, bok choy is good raw in salads or in stir-fry (with garlic and soy sauce), or simmered in soups.

Chinese cabbage: There are two main types of Chinese cabbage – Napa which is barrel-shaped, and michichili, more elongated. Both are mild, crunchy and delectable. Thinly sliced and quickly cooked, as a bed for whole steamed fish; simmer them in soup, good raw in salads or as the foundation for Kim Chi.

Mizuna: Japanese name, mizuna, means “water vegetable,” used frequently in Japanese cooking. Dark green, or red, feathery leaves are slightly peppery. Baby leaves are often used in field green mixtures; mature ones are excellent sautéed.

Green mustard: Also called Chinese mustard greens, this is among the most pungent of Asian greens. Steamed for five minutes or so and dressed with a little oil, it makes a perfect side dish. It is also good pickled.

Pea shoots: From the peanut family. These are the tendrils and top few leaves of the pea plant, an important ingredient in Shanghai and Vietnamese cooking. Pinch leaves from stems, and use the tenderest tips. The delicate pea flavor comes through when they’re used raw in salads, steamed, or stir-fried for a minute with a little ginger.

Tatsoi: A ground-hugging member of the bok choy family. The round, thick, very dark green leaves grow in tight circles like rose petals. Tatsoi is excellent raw (when young) in salads, and adds spark to Asian-style noodle soups when tossed in at the last minute.

“Nin de hauyuan hen mei” (Mandarin) - “Your garden is beautiful.”

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