It’s Electric! Asian Greens Electric Salad Mix

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If you’ve never grown Asian greens before, you might have a hard time deciding where to start! There is certainly more to this group than the standard Pak Choy or Napa Cabbage that you might find in your supermarket. Likewise, there are many more uses for these  members of the mustard family than just stir fry.

Clockwise from top left, Tatsoi, Tokyo Bekana, Japanese Giant Red Mustard, Sugar Snap Peas, Hyssop, Dragon Tongue Arugula, and Purple Mizuna.  Use either mature leaves or baby plants (baby pak choy in center) for spicy and colorful winter salads!

Clockwise from top left, Tatsoi, Tokyo Bekana, Japanese Giant Red Mustard, Sugar Snap Peas, Hyssop, Dragon Tongue Arugula, and Purple Mizuna. Use either mature leaves or baby plants (baby pak choy in center) for spicy and colorful winter salads!

Asian greens dominate many of our family’s fall and winter salad mixes. Their cold-hardiness compared to lettuces has a large part to do with it, as many varieties like Michihili cabbage and tatsoi rival kale in their ability to withstand hard freezes. But if their cold-tolerance introduced me to the idea of growing Asian greens in winter, their amazing flavor sealed the deal. Every variety is different, from tatsoi and michihili cabbage that add a mild “background” to salads like spinach does, to Japanese Giant Red Mustard with its hints of wasabi. Tokyo Bekana is a pale variety of Pak Choy that provides the tenderness of a young spring lettuce in winter (but with notes of pepper), and mizuna adds pizazz with its spiky leaves and color variations.

Combine the vibrant colors and natural spices of Asian greens into your winter salads — or let them stand alone in what I call our “Electric Salad Mix.” Add a few colorful edible flowers like nasturtium and hyssop, which continue to produce abundantly in late October, and the salad mix almost appears to vibrate off the table! It’s so much better than boring “spring mix,” and it is local and sustainable to boot!

It's electric! (Boogy woogy woogy)

It’s electric! (Boogy woogy woogy)

Here in zone 6b, we’re approaching the end of the window for direct sowing Asian greens in the garden for winter harvests, so you’ll want to act now to get those seeds in the ground. (Don’t forget my handy planting dates chart if you’re in zone 6). At this late of a date, the greens will only reach baby leaf size, so plant a large bed so that you can harvest from many plants throughout the winter. Although typically grown for single harvest, you can cut-and-come-again with these plants as you would kale, so you don’t have to worry about exhausting your supply (I plant at least a 2 ft x 35 ft bed to feed my friends and family salad throughout the winter, as plant growth slows significantly). We grow our winter salad mix under the protection of only a fabric row cover, such as AG-30, to keep the foliage from burning when the temperatures really dip low (typically into the low teens by late January and February). You’ll be amazed at how resilient these plants are to hard freezes!

So what’s stopping you? Get growing!

Michihili cabbage and kale growing in the January salad bed.

Michihili cabbage and kale growing in the January salad bed.

Baby tatsoi in early winter

Baby tatsoi in early winter

Joi Choi