If you’re tired of eating traditional leafy greens such as silverbeet and spinach, why not try growing something a bit different this spring? Oriental greens can also be harvested as you need them, which makes them a handy addition to the garden. I do find they’re best sown in autumn, as they enjoy cool growing conditions but it is possible to sow them in spring, allowing them to mature before temperatures increase and they start bolting to seed. For general information on how to propagate plants from seed, please see my previous blog post.
There are so many different types of oriental greens that are available and I haven’t grown them all, but here are some of our favourites.
Although I had heard of the gain amaranth some time ago, it was only fairly recently that I became aware that it could be grown as a plant. When I ran my plant nursery back in 2017, a customer asked for it by the Indian name choraiya and I had to do a bit of research to find out what it was.
Seeds can either be sown directly or transplanted at a later stage. Amaranth can be harvested and cooked much like spinach. It has a slightly bitter taste but is perfectly pleasant to eat. I have found that it grows happily in containers, alongside my capsicums and chillies.
Egmont Seeds stock a variety of amaranth called Red Callaloo (RRP $3).
Bok choy and pak choi
Bok choy and pak choi are also fast-maturing Asian greens which are delicious eaten steamed with garlic, ginger and some oyster sauce. We also enjoy using the leaves raw in green smoothies. Seeds can be sown in punnets filled with seed raising mix, then transplanted into six-cell punnets or seed raising trays filled with potting mix at a later stage, prior to planting in the garden. As with all oriental greens, simply harvest the leaves as you need them.
This spring, I am growing the variety Mini Toy Choi from Egmont Seeds (RRP $3). This is just one from a number of different kinds of Pak choi they have in their catalogue:
I have yet to try growing Chinese broccoli, but it’s something I’m really looking forward to sowing this spring. Unlike regular broccoli, Chinese broccoli doesn’t form a head. It makes the perfect addition to stir-fry dishes. It can also be eaten raw.
To propagate Chinese broccoli, I recommend using the same method as for bok choy and pak choi.
Tat soi is very high in vitamins. The leaves are smaller than bok choy and pak choi. Propagate plants as you would for growing bok choy and pak choi.
Egmont Seeds stock a variety which I recommend called Oriental Tatsoi (RRP $3).
Malabar spinach goes by the name of Aloobati in the Philippines, where it is widely used in the cuisine. I was introduced to Malabar spinach by a lady in the Auckland Gardeners group I belong to on Facebook, when I held a seed swap at our home a few years ago. Curious as I had never heard of it before, I simply had to give it a try. Since then, Malabar spinach has become a staple in our summer garden. It is a sub-tropical plant, so I wouldn’t advise starting seedlings too early. October is perfect. You can either sow seeds direct or in a punnet on your heat pad if temperatures at night are still cool. As the seeds have a hard coating, it may improve germination rates if you soak them for a few hours beforehand.
Malabar spinach is a vine which creeps upwards and requires some support. We grow ours against the plastic trellis we have in our backyard, which we also use for growing beans and peas. The leaves are delicious steamed or can be enjoyed raw in green smoothies, as we do in summer when warm growing conditions make it difficult to grow kale and bok choy without them running to seed. Click here to read our favourite green smoothie recipe.
Egmont Seeds stock a leafy Chinese vegetable called Kailaan, which I have never heard of before. It retails for $3 and can be sown in spring, summer and autumn.