HEADING into winter the fresh flavour of Oriental vegetables balances the richness of winter food and are also good sources of sources of vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamins B2 and B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium and calcium.
* Mizuna (Brassica rapa var. japonica) grows to about 30cm in height and is an attractive leaf mustard with a pleasant taste, being milder than most mustards and somewhat reminiscent of rocket, but sweeter. The leaves are dark green, narrow and fringed at the edges. Mizuna needs more moisture than the other oriental vegetables so it should be grown separately. It can also be grown in containers.
* With its red-tinged leaves, Red Giant mustard (Brassica juncea) is very attractive. The leaves have a distinct hot mustard flavour and the flowers are edible. The leaves can be added to stir fries as well as stews and casseroles and the harvested seeds can be sprouted for salads.
* White stem Pak Choi (Brassica rapa var. rosularis, Brassica rapa var. chinensis) is also known as bok choy or Chinese white cabbage. It produces loose heads of glossy green leaves and very white soup spoon-shaped leaf stalks. The leaves have a crisp and juicy texture and a neutral mild mustard flavour. The individual leaves can be harvested or the plant can be left grow into a mature cabbage.
* Green-in- snow Chinese mustard (Brassica juncea) has deep green foliage that can be used in salads and stir fries. The edible flowers can be used in drinks and as a garnish.
* Tatsoi (Brassica campestris chinensis, Brassica rapa var. rosularis) is a standard ingredient in many Chinese dishes. It is also a pak choi, but in cold weather it is very low growing, forming a compact, flat rosette close to the ground (in warm weather it grows erect). The whole plant may be harvested at once or the leaves can be picked continuously over several weeks. The deep green spoon-shaped leaves are thick and tender with a hint of mustard flavour while the stalks are white, crisp and very tender. The leaves are best used raw in salads or stirred into a stir fry. It has a long harvest period and is slow to bolt.
General growing tips
ORIENTAL veggies should be planted in a position that gets full sun and in soil that has been generously enriched with compost and bone meal as well as an organic fertiliser. Being members of the Brassica family, they are heavy feeders and should be fed monthly, especially if leaves are harvested daily. To harvest, simply pick individual leaves from the outer edges of each plant. New leaves will soon sprout in the place of those that have been removed.
Oriental vegetable stir fry:
- One tablespoon sesame oil
- One tablespoon water
- One cup broccoli florets
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced into strips
- One clove garlic, minced
- One teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- 3/4 cup julienned carrots
- Six fresh mushrooms, sliced into slivers
- 1/3 cup cashews
- One cup Pak Choi, shredded
- One cup Tatsoi, shredded (or any other Oriental vegetable available such as Mizuna, Red Giant, Green-in- Snow)
- Three tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
- Three tablespoons soy sauce
- One tablespoon cornstarch
- In a large skillet or wok, combine oil, water, broccoli, bell pepper, garlic and ginger. Cook on medium heat for one minute. Add carrots, mushrooms, cashews, Pak Choi and Tatsoi and stir fry for two minutes.
- Whisk together broth, soy sauce and cornstarch; add to vegetable mixture and stir fry for two minutes.
- Serve alone or with rice or noodles.
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