By: Jackie Rhoades
When I was a girl, eating Asian style vegetables at home consisted of buying a can at the supermarket, rinsing the mysterious contents well and mixing it with another can of beef and gravy. I thought a third of the world’s population ate only “white” vegetables, like bean sprouts and water chestnuts.
As a gardener, the names of Asian vegetable plants were conspicuously absent from my catalogs. Then, low and behold, two things happened; the ethnic Asian population grew and the rest of us became more health conscious, seeking more variety in our vegetables. Hurray for me!
Today, Asian style vegetables are everywhere. Originating in East and Southeast Asia, these vegetables are finally available to the general population. For gardeners, the possibilities are endless. Our home gardens can yield a much wider variety than is available in the produce section of your local store. Of course, with these new growing opportunities, questions arise about the names of vegetable plants and Asian vegetable care.
While the names of Asian vegetable plants may seem exotic, most are merely different subspecies of their western counterparts and Asian vegetable care requires no more effort. An Asian root vegetable requires growing conditions similar to the radishes, beets and turnips you grow every year. There are cucurbits like your cucumbers and squash, crucifers or cole crops like cabbage and broccoli, and legumes. To help you make your choices, the following is a basic guide to Asian vegetables.
Please be aware that following guide to Asian vegetables is in no way complete and is only meant to encourage newcomers. I’ve used the most common names of Asian vegetable plants to make your selection easier.
More good news! For those of you who participate in local farmers markets, there is a niche in Asian style vegetables just waiting to be filled. So whether it’s for profit or simply dining adventure, try adding a few names of Asian vegetable plants to your list of things to try.
This article was last updated on
Read more about General Vegetable Garden Care
Feeding China's one billion people isn't an easy task, and feeding them well (as participants on MOTHER EARTH NEWS' tour to that country last fall discovered is generally the case) seems little short of a miracle! And even though the nation's current administration deserves much of the credit for this feat, the farming techniques that have enabled land—which has been tilled for thousands of years—to remain productive are, themselves, just short of incredible.
Eighty percent of China's people, using methods developed over centuries, are now involved in the most intensive and efficient agricultural system in the world. Many of the vegetables that these farm workers—and their city cousins, too—consume come from private family plots of raised vegetable beds that are smaller than the space needed to house a Western farmer's tools!
With the exception of areas containing such "water crops" as rice and lotus (which require sunken beds), this intensive gardening technique is used on almost every spare inch of land. Entire fields of raised beds stretch to the horizon. There are tiny strips of cultivated earth beside factory walls, city dwellings, and highway right-of-ways. Some small gardens are even tucked in among the rock monoliths of Kunming's "Stone Forest" national monument. Such "postcard-size" plots play a large part in putting good fresh vegetables on family tables, and often produce enough surplus to earn the gardeners extra income at "free markets."
Chinese vegetables, sometimes called Oriental vegetables, favored in Chinese and Asian cooking are easy to grow. They are tasty, vigorous, and highly adaptable. Most are fast growing and suitable for small gardens and containers.
Chinese vegetables can generally be broken into three groups: those easy to grow in temperate regions with cool and cold winters, those that require higher temperatures and long-growing seasons–sub-tropical plants, and, finally, a small group of water vegetables, tubers, and herbs.
Like other vegetable crops, Chinese vegetables can be divided into warm-season and cool-season growing crops. Here are common cool-season Chinese vegetables. For warm-season varieties see the related article: Chinese Vegetables: Warm-Season Varieties
Fava bean (Vicia faba). Also called broad bean. Young pods can be cooked as you would snow peas young beans can be shelled and cooked older beans can be shelled and cooked to make a puree or soup dried beans can be cooked like navy beans. Sow in spring as soon as the soil can be worked in warm-winter regions sow in fall for a spring crop. Sow 1 inch deep, 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. For edible pods harvest as soon as pods begin to show outline of bean for shelled beans allow beans to plump up for dried beans harvest 65 to 90 days after sowing. Try varieties: Aquadulce, Broad Windsor, Precoce Violetto.
Chinese broccoli (Brassica oleracea Albogloabra Group). Also called white flowering broccoli. Traditional style cut the broccoli into 2-inch pieces and stir-fry for 1 minute. Also stir-fry or steam leaves can be used in salad. Sow in early spring for late-spring crop. Sow ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart in rows 12 inches apart. Harvest 70 to 80 days after sowing. Try varieties: Thick Stem Winner, Blue Star, Hybrid Blue Wonder.
Burdock (Arctium lappa). Also known as gobo, the Japanese name. Young leaves and stem can be eaten like spinach and asparagus, but the long, slender root is best known. Eat roots young and peeled like a radish mature root is peeled and soaked in salted water and parboiled. Plant in early spring for fall crop or winter over for early spring crop. Soak seed and then plant ½ to 1 inch deep, 6 inches apart, in rows 20 inches apart. Harvest in as little as 45 days, but can stay in ground longer until roots are 2 to 3 feet long. Varieties: Grow only A. lappa try Takinogawa Long, Watanabe.
Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa Pekinensis Group). Also called napa cabbage, hakusai, Tianjin cabbage, Michihili, and Chinese celery cabbage. Use in salads or stir-fry as you would ordinary cabbage. Plant mid-summer for fall crop in spring plant bolt-resistant variety. Sow ½ inch deep, in inch between plants, thin to 18 inches apart in rows 18 to 30 inches apart. Harvest before heavy frost ready for harvest 70 to 80 days after sowing. Try varieties: Hybrid Super, Hybrid Hwa King WR60, Michihili.
Garland chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium). Also called shungiku or edible chrysanthemum, also called crown daisy. Eat raw with salad greens, but commonly cooked very briefly like spinach or last minute in stir-fry. Sow in early spring and successively until early summer. Sow ¼ inch deep, 2 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Harvest in 25 to 60 days. Try varieties: Small Leaf, Round Leaf, Tiger Ear.
Garlic (Allium sativum). Sharper flavor than elephant garlic. For cooking, peel whole cloves before using crush and remove from dish before serving cook lightly in a bit of oil to distribute flavor to other ingredients. Garlic cloves are planted in late fall or in early spring plant larger cloves for best results. Separate garlic bulbs into individual cloves and plant ½ inch deep, 6 inches apart in rows 8 inches apart. Grows best in cool temperatures where days are long. Cloves mature in 6 to 8 months harvest when the tops turn brown and dry allow bulbs to dry in the sun or a day or two after harvest.
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). Differs from common chives with garlic instead of onion flavor flowers are white instead of lavender. Use as you would common chives: mince for salads, sprinkle as a garnish, or add to cooked dishes for zesty flavor. Bulbs can be eaten like garlic or shallots. Grow indoors as a potherb. Or grow outside as a permanent clump. Usually started from transplants set 12 inches apart in rows 20 inches apart. Dig and divide clumps to start new colony. Harvest leaves when they are about 6 inches long from 25 to 60 or more days after starting cut shoots to within 2 inches of the ground. Don’t let the flowers go to seed
Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum). Elephant garlic is milder flavor than common garlic it is a bigger version of ordinary garlic. For cooking, peel whole cloves before using crush and remove from dish before serving cook lightly in a bit of oil to distribute flavor to other ingredients. Garlic cloves are planted in late fall or in early spring plant larger cloves for best results. Separate garlic bulbs into individual cloves and plant ½ inch deep, 6 inches apart in rows 8 inches apart. Grows best in cool temperatures where days are long. Cloves mature in 6 to 8 months harvest when the tops turn brown and dry allow bulbs to dry in the sun or a day or two after harvest.
Flowering kale (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group). Often sold as ornamental kale or ornamental cabbage. Use like other kale or cabbage shred, boil, bake, or stuff. Sow ½ inch deep 8 inches apart in rows 16 inches apart. Grow like common cabbage. Harvest when heads are loosely formed as early as 55 days.
Mitsuba (Cryptotaenia canadensis ssp. japonica). Often called Japanese parsley. Use leaves as you would Italian parsley in mixed green salads, simmer in broth, stir-dry, or mince and add to cooked vegetables. Sow as early as the ground can be worked in spring can be grown in a pot indoors in winter. Sow seed ½ inch deep, 2 inches apart and thin to 4 inches apart. Sow successively every three weeks for continuous harvest. Leaves are ready for harvest in 60 to 90 days.
Mizuna (Brassica napa nipposinica). Also called Chinese potherb mustard or Japanese salad green. Steam or stir-fry at the last minute or use in mixed green or tossed salad. Grow from early spring until hard frost does not go to seed in hot weather. Sow 2 inches apart at ½ inch deep in rows 18 inches apart. Harvest from seed in 35 to 40 days.
Chinese mustard (Brassica juncea). Chinese mustard greens among most delicious greens comes in many forms use in salads or cook like spinach. Sow in early spring and again in last summer until first frost flavor is peppery in summer. Sow seeds ¾ inches deep in rows 12 inches apart. Harvest from seed in 35 to 50 days. Try varieties: Bau-Sin, San-Ho Giant, Red Giant.
Bunching onions (Allium fistulosum). Also called Japanese leek, nebuka, scallion, spring onion, multiplier onion, green onion, and Welsh onion. Use bunching onions as you would scallions–as garnish, in stir-fry, and they are mild enough to eat raw. Braise after cutting in half vertically. Sow seed in early spring for summer use and in mid-summer for fall or early spring use. Sow ½ inch deep and 2 inches apart. Ready for harvest in about 65 days. Try varieties: Evergreen, Red Beard, Four Season.
Pak choy (Brassica rapa Chinensis Group). Cook Pak choy leaves like spinach cook stems or ribs like asparagus. Use in stir-fry and soups. Sow in early spring or later summer extend fall crop by harvesting outer leaves. Can be harvested whole very small. Sow seed ¼ inch deep about 2 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart thin to about 6 inches apart. Grow quickly with even, regular watering. Ready for harvest in about 45 days, or clop outside leaves earlier. Try varieties: Long White Petiole, Short White Petiole, Canton Choice.
Asparagus pea (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus). The whole plant is edible: leaves, shoots, flowers, and roots. Stir-fry pods or add to soups ands stews. Add shoots, leaves and flowers to soups and curries. This plant is not frost tender sow in garden a couple of weeks before the last frost–start early. Sow seed ½ inch deep, 6 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Sow fall crop in mid- to late-summer. Harvest in 50 days.
Snow pea (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon). Also called edible-podded peas. Use in soups, meat dishes, stir-fry dishes and sukiyaki. Combines well with fish and other vegetables just remove ends and cook quickly. Sow in spring as soon as the soil can be worked as much as six weeks before the last frost. Sow for fall crop in late summer. Sow in a 6-inch-deep trench cover first few inches of stem as they grow to fill in trench. Sow ½ inch deep and thin to 2 inches apart. Grow on supports–vines can reach 5 feet tall or more. Try varieties: Mammoth Melting, Sugar, Oregon Sugar Pod II, Premium.
Chinese radish (Raphanus sativus). Can be eaten raw, grated and served with Asian sesame oil or soy sauce. Cook in stir-fry and also can be pickled. Greens can be served young or steamed. Sow seed in spring, summer, or fall sow ½ inch deep and 2 inches apart thin in stages and eat thinnings. Time of harvest depends on if you grow for leave or roots roots ready for harvest in 60 to 80 days. Try varieties: Ta-Mei-Hwa, Tsin-tao Green, Nam Pan.
Chinese vegetables were a rare commodity in the U.S., just a few years ago. They were hard to find in grocery stores, and even rarer still, growing in the home garden. Chinese and other cultural foods have gained in popularity in the marketplace. Grocery stores stock an ever increasing variety to meet the rising demand. Home gardeners have responded, by stocking up on Chinese vegetable seeds, and growing them in their gardens.
We tend to group all Asian vegetables into one category. "Chinese". In actuality, many originated in other parts of Asia, and are in use around the continent.
Varieties of Asian Vegetables:
There is a wide variety of Chinese vegetables to choose from. They include:
Corn- cute, miniature corn ears found in many Chinese dishes.
Chinese Pea Pods- flat edible pea pods with tiny immature peas inside
Growing instructions vary, depending upon the type of vegetable you are growing. Many varieties of Chinese vegetables are "baby" types. They are grown similar to their larger cousins in terms of fertilizer needs, soil conditions, and insect and disease control. There are also differences in growing techniques, due to their smaller size. Make sure to read the instructions on the package when buying the seed for special care instructions.
A wide range of seed companies now include Chinese varieties of vegetables in their seed offerings.
For more information, visit:
China Unique's Cookbook Resources for all your Chinese recipe needs! And don't forget to surf over to the Panda Bears while you are there.
Our Garden Recipe Collection - When you're done gardening, it's time to eat!
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
Do you ever get in the mood for certain dishes from different parts of the world? I go through spells where I love Mexican cuisine.
But lately, I’ve been into Asian cuisine. I saw a post on a homesteading site where a man from Asia was curious why Americans chose to eat out more than cooking. He said Asian cuisine could be whipped up in a flash and it was healthy.
Therefore, he didn’t understand why we chose to eat out and in turn, had weight issues. He was evident in his statement he didn’t mean any offense to us as Americans but was genuinely curious about our food choices.
Which made me wonder, “What was he eating which could save me time and my health in the process?” Many of the comments which followed his question were very interesting, and I learned a great deal from this one post.
Following this online conversation, I began to research different Asian dishes. The funny thing is – he was right. Many recipes were healthy, fast, and easy to whip up.
Now, I want to give you a list of Asian vegetables which are easy to serve and make delicious meals from. Here are the veggies you should know about:
There are many different varieties of Chinese cabbage. The standard variety of this type of cabbage is Napa cabbage. It’s high in vitamin C, which makes it a healthy option for you.
The great thing about preparing Chinese cabbage is it takes on any flavor of the foods it’s prepared with. Don’t feel you have to continually cook this style of cabbage because it’s an excellent addition to salads, stir-fry, or soups too.
If you haven’t prepared Chinese cabbage before, choose the heads which have crispy leaves and are green.
You’ll notice the trend with Asian vegetables is they all are high in nutrients. The daikon radish is no exception. It’s high in nutrients while remaining low in calories.
This radish will stand out from other ordinary varieties of radishes because it has a long, white root. Daikon radishes not only stand out by looks but in flavor too.
They have a milder flavor in comparison to other radish varieties and have less of a pepper flavor. Daikon radishes can be pickled or cooked in a dish by slicing or grating it.
However, the daikon radish isn’t for taste alone. The health benefits are amazing. It can help with digestive troubles, and you can juice it to use as an anti-inflammatory or to help cure a headache.
Yardlong beans are also known as asparagus beans. They grow on a long, climbing vine and slightly resemble asparagus because of their shape and color.
Though this vegetable is called a bean, don’t get caught up in titles. It may belong to the bean family, but shouldn’t be prepared the same as traditional style green beans.
If you throw this bean in a pot of boiling water, they’ll become overwhelmingly soggy. Instead, you should sauté these beans.
The great thing about yardlong beans is there is no stringing involved in prepping them. You wash the beans and cut before cooking.
However, when you try to purchase yardlong beans, don’t be alarmed. They’ll look limp, and this is normal even when they are freshly picked.
Bok choy is a vegetable high in vitamins C, A, and K. It’s also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and iron.
If you’re like me and struggle to take in as many vitamins as you should in a day, you should consider adding this vegetable to your diet.
It’s able to add many necessary nutrients to your diet by eating only one type of vegetable. It simplifies things.
Not to mention, you can toss Bok choy raw in a salad, or you can cook it and use it as part of a stir-fry.
Taro root is another Asian vegetable high in numerous types of vitamins. It’s high in vitamin A, C, E, B6, folate, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, and copper.
Again, why wouldn’t you include this in your diet if you can get this much nutrients from one type of food?
If the nutrients aren’t enough to get you to try it, you should also know taro root is good for your digestion and helps prevent cancer by giving your immune system a boost.
Taro root also helps to regulate your insulin and glucose levels, which is helpful for those struggling with diabetes or pre-diabetes. It can also help boost your heart health and vision.
If all of this isn’t enough, you should know it can also help your skin to look healthier and clearer when included in your diet on a regular basis.
Lotus root is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the root of the Lotus flower. Don’t get caught up in the flower to the point you miss all the Lotus root can do for you.
This root can help with blood circulation, helps reduce your stress, and can help regulate your blood pressure as well.
It’s also high in vitamin C, can help improve your digestion, gives your heart health a boost, and can help with weight management.
But you don’t have to munch on this root in raw form to get these benefits. You can deep-fry it, put it in soup, stir-fry it, or cook it for any other recipe you desire it to be a part of.
I know what you’re thinking, “Mustard greens? I thought those were supposed to be covered in bacon grease and vinegar?”
Well, in the south this is precisely how we eat them. But in Asian cuisine, mustard greens are compiled with other heart-healthy vegetables to make a quick and easy stir-fry.
The next time you’re in a rush to get food on the table, consider tossing mustard greens and other veggies from the fridge in a large pan. Sauté them and include a protein for a well rounded and fast meal.
I love garlic chives. I grow them in my herb garden year after year. They have a beautiful aroma and also do a great job of attracting butterflies.
However, garlic chives are also great for many other uses. You can include them in your stir-fries, salads, soups, and over grilled meats.
But some of my favorite ways to incorporate them into my dishes are in herbal vinegar, delicious butter, and soft cheeses.
Japanese eggplant is a popular vegetable in Japan, which you might expect. In Japanese culinary, it’s the third most used vegetable.
This vegetable has been produced in Japan for more than 12 centuries, but with the number of nutrients it provides and the diverse ways it can be used, it isn’t any wonder.
Japanese eggplant is high in vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber. You can prepare this healthy vegetable by roasting it, including it in soup, or making it part of a stir-fry.
Lemongrass is another excellent herb used in Asia. When choosing lemongrass, choose bunches which have a strong smell to them.
Also, you’ll want them to have a yellowish and green color close to the bulb. If purchasing from a store, be sure the bunch is tightly wound and not loose.
When you find the right bunch of lemongrass, you can take it home and find a delicious curry recipe to include it in.
Choy sum looks similar to Bok choy. You probably couldn’t tell the difference except choy sum has smaller stalks and produces yellow flowers.
Like Bok choy, this Asian vegetable is excellent for use in many different ways. You can include it raw for a salad, cooked, or as part of a stir-fry.
This root vegetable is used more as a seasoning and confuses many people in the process. If you see it on a grocery shelf, you might assume you were looking at ginger.
The only difference in appearance between galangal and ginger is galangal has a harder and paler flesh in comparison to ginger.
But once you bite into galangal, you’ll quickly learn there’s a huge difference in flavor. Galangal has a citrus flavor with a hint of pine.
Obviously, you can’t use galangal as a substitute for ginger, or at least, it’s not recommended.
Galangal is good for more than tricking you. It’s great for your digestion. Also, it can help with treating hiccups and upset stomach.
If you’re suffering from morning sickness, galangal is said to be able to help alleviate this as well.
You can use galangal in different spice blends, to season a culinary dish, and it’s also a common ingredient in the Indonesian dish ‘nasi goreng.’ This is translated as an Indonesian version of fried rice.
Mizuna is a leafy green vegetable which would make a great addition to your salad mix. You can include mizuna in your pasta dishes as well.
However, if you’re looking for a leafy green to add to your stir-fry, then mizuna would be a great fit. You can include it in your risotto as well.
Mizuna is an excellent fit for soups and quinoa salads too. If you aren’t up for making any of these dishes, you can sauté mizuna by itself and enjoy it this way as well.
This is another leafy green which is included in many different salad mixes throughout the world. We eat it and don’t realize it because tatsoi is similar in appearance to spinach.
Tatsoi is a simple vegetable to figure out how to use it. Anything you would use spinach in, you can substitute tatsoi in its place.
Which means, if you enjoy spinach in a salad, include tatsoi in your salads. If you like creamed spinach, try creamed tatsoi and see if you like it too. Your options are limitless.
Finally, we come to water spinach. This is a unique aquatic perennial which grows in tropic and subtropics locations.
It makes a great addition to stir-fry, curry, or you can saute and enjoy it by itself. However you decide to fix it, you’ll be glad you tried it because water spinach has an incredible amount of benefits.
Water spinach helps to reduce your cholesterol, aids in digestion, helps with diabetes and is great for your heart health too.
Well, you now know 15 different Asian vegetables you should include in your diet. Hopefully, you can come up with some quick, healthy, and tasty Asian cuisine recipes for your enjoyment and improve your overall health.