I love growing ethnic vegetables such as the vining Italian trombocino squash or small, hot South American peppers. But when I say Asian greens, many gardeners think of Chinese cabbage and bok choy. But there are other unusual Asian greens that add spice and beauty to a meal. Here are some of my favorites.
Mizuna is a deeply serrated leafy plant with green or purple leaves. This mild-flavored green is great in salads and regrows from cutting, so you'll get a few harvests from each plant.
Tatsoi has unique, spoon-like leaves arranged in a 6-inch diameter rosette. The leaves are dark green, thick, and tasty in stir fries.
Shungiku or edible chrysanthemum is a low growing green that's harvested when young for salads, and for making pickles and sushi. It has a mild, zesty flavor and a pleasant aroma.
There are also a number of beautiful and spicy mustard varieties, such as Red Giant with red tinged, large leaves, and zippy flavor and Osaka Purple with large, attractive, purple leaves.
Plant Asian greens from seeds in early spring as soon as the ground warms and dries out. Cover the bed with a floating row cover for protection. These greens taste and grow best in cool weather and mature quickly within a month.
If your greens are too spicy, it's probably due to hot weather, too little water, or overcrowding. Watch for aphids and spray them off with a hose. Flea beetles can be controlled with sprays of diatomaceous earth. Harvest greens on the young side for the most tender leaf texture and best flavor.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about flower shows. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.