- Everything You Need to Know About Bok Choy
- What Is Baby Bok Choy: Bok Choy Vs. Baby Bok Choy
- What is Baby Bok Choy?
- Bok Choy vs. Baby Bok Choy Plants
- Baby Bok Choy Growing Information
- Looking to Fit More Green Vegetables into Your Diet? Buy Bok Choy Seeds Online in Australia
Everything You Need to Know About Bok Choy
Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: Meet your new favorite winter green.
Shop the Story
If you’re playing a word-guessing game (think Taboo or Pictionary — or increasingly more tech-friendly versions like Catch Phrase or Ellen DeGeneres’ app), and you select “Asian vegetable,” I can almost guarantee that you’re going to either say or draw bok choy.
I can say that with certainty, because — although I have a soft spot for lotus root — bok choy is the most common Asian vegetable in the United States. But what exactly is bok choy? As Elizabeth Schneider laments, the “closely related leafy greens are as difficult to identify by name as they are easy to eat.”
What’s indisputable is that bok choy originated in China and is a member of the enormous Brassica family. It’s often referred to as a type of Chinese cabbage, but rather than forming dense, leafy heads like cabbage does, bok choy looks more like an exotic cousin of celery, with dark green leaves atop a cluster of thick stalks.
Head to a farmers market or grocery store and you might feel confident identifying standard mature bok choy (2) and baby bok choy (1), but wander into a Chinese market, and you’re likely to see a staggering number of leafy green vegetables labeled as bok choy or pak choi.
Schneider explains why: “The general term ‘bok choy’ embraces several growth stages of the same plant: seedling, ‘baby,’ mature, and flowering. Confusion arises because each stage may look like a distinctly different vegetable. The term also designates scores of varieties of bok choy, the bulk of which fall into these general groups: large white-stemmed (the most common type), dwarf white-stemmed, and green stemmed.” And what we refer to as baby bok choy can either be the larger varieties picked before fully mature, or dwarf varieties.
The Pros Propose
In Ripe, Cheryl Sternman Rule says: “If you’ve never cooked with bok choy, and you think your life has been fine, I’m here to tell you, as gently as I can, that it hasn’t. It hasn’t been fine at all. There is something missing, and that thing is bok choy.”
And she’s not alone, Mark Bittman concurs in his book Leafy Greens: “Among Chinese cabbages, the bok choi varieties really stand apart; their texture can be as crunchy as that of celery if cooking times are short, but if you leave them in the pan a little longer, they develop a creamy texture that is unique among greens. For my money, their flavor is superior to that of any other cabbage.”
In short: Eat more bok choy.
Elizabeth Schneider recommends storing your bok choy in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator — unwashed and in a perforated plastic bag — and using it within a few days.
When you do use it, remember that its cluster of stalks hides dirt, so wash it well. For mature bok choy, slice a layer off the base, separate the stalks by gently pulling each one off at the base (3, above) as you would celery, and then wash as you would lettuce. Baby bok choy preparations often call for halving or quartering, so with the base intact, you’ll want to make sure to throughly get any grit out. Either swish them around in a bowl of water or clean them under running water (like Merrill does with leeks).
Work bok choy into a meal or two this week and you’re sure to have a happy family. Try bok choy braised or in a noodle bowl, or go for one of these nine recipes:
- Scallion and Coconut Rice with Pork
- Pad Thai Redux
- Grilled Baby Bok Choy with Miso Butter
- Country-Style Vegetable Soup with Fermented Black Beans and Tofu
- Quick Wok-Fired Squid with Greens
- Shanghainese Lion’s Head Meatballs
- Shrimp and Baby Bok Choy Stir-Fry
- Asian Summer Rolls with Leftover Fish and Market Greens
- Thai-Style Scallops
Tell us: How do you like to use bok choy?
Photos by Mark Weinberg
Pak Choi vs Bok Choy
Pak choi and bok choy are of the same plant. It is a leafy green Chinese cabbage which mostly grows in Asian regions like the Philippines, China, and Vietnam. Pak choi, or bok choy, is also called pe-tsai, petsay, Chinese white cabbage, and white celery mustard. It is a popular mainland crop that belongs in the Brassica family. Though pak choi or bok choy is commonly grown in the eastern world, it has also captivated westerners with its sweet and tender stalks. It comes in the scientific name of Brassica campestris L.
The Brassica family can be further subdivided into different varieties according to the color of the leaves’ petioles. The white petiole variety includes the Canton pak choi, prize choi, taisai, lei choi, joi choi, and pak-choy white. On the other hand, the green petiole variety includes the mei qing choi and the Chinese pak choi green.
Pak choi or bok choy is a small plant but can grow up to 12 or 18 inches in height. It grows upright from the ground. It has smooth and white stalks that look like celery. At the end of each stalk, the plant will spread to an oval-shaped leaf. Its leaves are green, smooth, and glossy. Some people have mistaken pak choi or bok choy as a collard or a mostaza because of their similar structures.
Eating pak choi or bok choy can bring you several health benefits. This leafy plant is actually very low in calories. If you eat even 100 grams of pak choi or bok choy, you don’t have to worry about gaining weight. Instead, it helps the body to burn your present calories which then leads to a weight reduction. It is also an abundant source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Pak choi, or bok choy, also has antioxidant properties. Its antioxidant properties, along with its fiber component, help to protect your body to fight against cancer-causing agents. The fiber component of the pak choi, or bok choy, acts as a sweeper of your bloodstream in eliminating the bad cholesterol of your blood. If you also prepare and eat fresh pak choi, or bok choy, your body will benefit from its vitamin C. We all know that vitamin C is necessary to boost our immune system and fight the common cold and flu.
Compared to its other vegetable families like cabbage and cauliflower, pak choi, or bok choy, contains more vitamin A and carotene. To be able to meet the required levels of vitamin A, eat 100 grams of pak choi. Aside from vitamin A, it is also rich in vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, calcium, and iron.
Pak choi, or bok choy, can be prepared and eaten as additives to healthy sandwiches and salads. This green, leafy vegetable helps give a crunchy, sweet taste. You can also add pak choi in your usual cabbage coleslaw recipe. Your coleslaw will become more delicious if you add pak choi. Pak choi is also great in stew recipes, soups, and stir fries.
- Pak choi and bok choy are of the same plant. It comes in the scientific name of Brassica campestris L.
- Pak choi, or bok choy, is also called pe-tsai, petsay, Chinese white cabbage, and white celery mustard.
- It is a Chinese cabbage with leafy, green leaves and white stalks.
- Pak choi, or bok choy, mostly grows in Asian regions like the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.
- Eating pak choi, or bok choy, can bring you several health benefits by being low in calories, rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium and iron.
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What Is Baby Bok Choy: Bok Choy Vs. Baby Bok Choy
Bok choy (Brassica rapa), variously known as pak choi, pak choy or bok choi, is an extremely nutrient rich Asian green most commonly used in stir fries, but what is baby bok choy? Are bok choy and baby bok choy the same? Are there different ways to use bok choy vs. baby bok choy? Read on to find out about growing baby bok choy and other baby bok choy information.
What is Baby Bok Choy?
A cool season vegetable, baby bok choy forms smaller heads than the taller bok choy varietals, about half the size of standard bok choy. Pretty much any variety of bok choy can be grown as baby bok choy but some types, like “Shanghai,” are bred specifically to be harvested at their diminutive height for maximum sweetness.
Bok Choy vs. Baby Bok Choy Plants
So yes, bok choy and baby bok choy are basically the same. The real difference
is in the smaller leaves and even earlier harvest of these tender leaves. Because the leaves are small and tender, they have a sweeter flavor than that of full sized bok choy and can be used in place of other greens in salads. Standard sized bok choy tends to have more of a mustard twang to it too.
Both full sized and baby bok choy are low in calories, chock full of Vitamin A and C, and rich in antioxidants and fiber.
Baby Bok Choy Growing Information
Both types of bok choy are rapid growers, with baby maturing in about 40 days and full sized bok choy in about 50. It grows best in the cool, shorter days of fall and the early spring.
Prepare a sunny area in the garden for planting in the early spring or fall. Work in an inch (2.5 cm.) of compost into the top 6 inches (15 cm.) of soil. Smooth out the soil with a garden rake.
Directly sow the seeds 2 inches (5 cm.) apart and ¼ inch (.6 cm.) deep. Water the seeds in well and keep the seeded area moist.
Seedlings should appear in about a week and should be thinned to between 4-6 inches (10-15 cm.) apart when they are a few inches (7.5 cm.) tall.
Fertilize the baby bok choy 3 weeks after sowing. Keep the planting area consistently moist and free of weeds.
Baby bok choy is ready to harvest when it is about 6 inches (15 cm.) in height. Cut the entire head off just above soil level for dwarf varieties or for full sized varieties, remove outer leaves and allow the rest of the plant to grow to maturity.
Bok Choy diversity can seem a little daunting at first, but it’s actually fairly easy to break down systematically.
First and foremost, let’s differentiate it from Chinese (napa) cabbage, to which it’s actually very closely related. The Chinese cabbage which forms large heads, often called napa cabbage, is a very close sibling of bok choy. Both are Brassica rapa – bok choy is the chinensis subspecies, while napa cabbage is the pekinensis subspecies. Because they are so closely related, they do have flavour elements in common. Nonetheless, the two are considered distinct, and look rather different from one another. Because of nomenclature inconsistencies and translations, bok choy is sometimes referred to as Chinese cabbage, though this vague term is more often used to either a) broadly refer to Brassica rapa or b) refer to the head-forming Chinese napa cabbage.
Despite the great variation in sizes, there are really only two common type of bok choy. Standard bok choy (shown above on the red background) has dark green leaves and contrasting creamy white stalks. Shanghai bok choy (shown above on the light green plate) has bright green leaves and pale green stalks.
The two types are often further subdivided based on size. Growers may grow certain cultivars best suited to one harvest size or another, but the basic principal underlying the variation seen on store shelves is simply harvest time; very small bok choy is young, larger bok choy is older. In general, bok choy is sold in the following sizes (some or all of which may be available at any given store or at different points in the season).
Dwarf – very small bunches (usually around 7 cm/3 inches). These extremely small bok choy may simply be labeled baby bok choy, and they can be used similarly, however they also make excellent salad greens. Their very small size tends to make them sweeter and more tender – ideal for eating raw. Note that a similar vegetable (and member of the same species, Brassica rapa) called tatsoi or spinach mustard, is also sometimes called rosette bok choy. It very much resembles a small, dwarf bok choy, though its growth habit makes it easier to harvest and sell as separate leaves, rather than small bunches.
Baby – small bunches (usually around 12 cm/5 inches or a little smaller). Their small size makes them very popular as individual vegetable alongside main dishes or in soups, where one bunch (or half) makes an excellent serving size. These are quite often labeled as baby bok choy.
Medium – an informal designation for larger bok choy bunches (usually around 18 cm/7 inches). These tend to be a little large for a single individual, but are popular for separating out the individual leaves for use. These are rarely labeled in any special way, and are generally just sold as bok choy. Unlike large bok choy, they tend to retain the hourglass-waist of the smaller bunches.
Large – another informal designation, this time for very large bok choy (often as large as 30 cm/12 inches). These bunches tend to be stronger in flavour, and ideal of soups, stews, dumplings, and other dishes that call for a chopping. Unlike the smaller varieties, these large bok choy bunches often lack the characteristic hourglass waist of the smaller plants. If in doubt, look for the contrasting white stems and dark green leaves, or (in the case of Shanghai bok choy) the characteristic shape of the individual stems connected at a solid base.
Looking to Fit More Green Vegetables into Your Diet? Buy Bok Choy Seeds Online in Australia
If you are looking for a way to fit more green leafy vegetables into your diet—but don’t consider yourself a fan of some of the more ‘obvious’ options—then you might consider trying bok choy. This type of vegetable, which is known more commonly as ‘Chinese cabbage’—is crunchy and mild with a hint of sweetness. It is a popular ingredient in many Asian food dishes, but is versatile and can be enjoyed on its own as well. At Eden Seeds, we stock bok choy seeds in Australia and can help you add this healthy and easy-to-enjoy veggie to your home garden and into your diet.
What to Expect from Bok Choy?
You may be thinking something along the lines of ‘But I don’t like cabbage!’ However, while bok choy is technically a cabbage plant, it is different from the cabbage you have tried (and perhaps not loved) in the past. If you do buy bok choy seeds and start growing it in your garden, you will quickly discover that it does not look like other types of cabbage. Where most cabbage varieties form ‘heads’ when they grow, bok choy is a non-heading type of cabbage. Instead, it grows into clusters of smooth, large, oval shaped, green leaves.
If you buy bok choy seeds online from Eden Seeds, choose Choy Sum, which is the Hong Kong variety of the vegetable. We chose this seed specifically because it offers the best flavour. If you are someone who wants to eat more green vegetables but struggles with their taste or texture, try Choy Sum. Fantastic in stir fry dishes and Asian soups, as a complement to wild mushrooms or even on its own with olive oil, sea salt and garlic, the Choy Sum variety of bok choy might just be the green leafy vegetable that changes your mind about green leafy vegetables! (All the above also holds true if you have trouble getting your kids to eat their veggies.)
Buy Bok Choy Seeds for the Taste of the Crop; Stay for the Nutrition
Just because bok choy tastes fantastic and has a flavour that works well with a lot of other dishes doesn’t mean it doesn’t provide the nutrition that you have come to expect from green leafy vegetables. On the contrary, when you buy bok choy seeds and start growing your own crop at home, you can expect numerous nutritional benefits.
First off, bok choy is extremely low in calories—even lower than most other green veggies. If you are dieting to cut calories and lose weight but don’t want to sacrifice flavour, then bok choy could be the perfect vegetable for you. Secondly, bok choy is loaded with healthy nutrients, including but not limited to vitamin K (which is really good for bone health), vitamin C (which is super beneficial to the immune system) and vitamin B6 (which helps the body build neurotransmitters).
Don’t miss out on the health and flavour of this so-called Chinese cabbage! Buy bok choy seeds online in Australia today by shopping with Eden Seeds.
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