Don Pierce of Pierce Street Nursery has taken an interest in growing bok choy in containers that will continue to grow throughout the winter if taken care of properly. This is his first year growing bok choy and is very excited to share his plants with you at the market. You can purchase containers of fully grown bok choy at the Oxford Farmers Market Uptown for less than $7! What’s so awesome about bok choy? It can be eaten all winter long! It will continue to grow like a lettuce if you cut off the outside leaves/stalks as needed. Bok choy loves cold weather so this is a prime food to enjoy this season.
For those of you who are not familiar with bok choy, it is a considered a Chinese cabbage. If you keep reading below, there’s a good amount of information needed to learn the basics of growing, eating, and loving bok choy! And of course, Don will be happy to answer all of the questions you may have when purchasing one of his bok choy plants.
According to online sources, bok choy is a green leafy vegetable used in Chinese and South-east Asian cooking. It has a firm white stem, dark green leaves, and a faintly bitter taste. Since the shape of bok choy’s leaves is like spoon, it is also called “soup spoon”. There are a number of different related varieties, some of which have green stems and lighter-green leaves, which looks like white cabbage, and is also different from Napa cabbage. The bok choy varies in color, taste, and size such as tah tsai and joi choi. Even though bok choy is similar to celery, it is actually a member of the cabbage family (brassica chinensis, or brassica campestris, Chinensis group).
Unlike a western cabbage, the heads are very loose and fan outward instead of close in on themselves. Both the stems and leaves can be used, but the stems take a little longer to cook (though still very little time). Bok choy is used after washing it carefully with the separation of the leaves and the stalks to make sure they are completely clean. It has a mild flavor that permits it to be eaten raw in a salad if the leaves are very small (Baby bok choy), steamed, stir-fried or even deep-fried, braising, boiled and in soups.
Most bok choy varieties are cut-and-come-again plants that allow you to get the maximum harvest from the minimum number of plants. Cut-and-come-again varieties allow you to harvest the outer leaves and stems as you need them and leave the inner parts of the plant to grow. The plant will continue to produce new leaves over a long period of time.
Bok choy can be fresh in the refrigerator for up to six days without washing. So, only wash it as needed. The veggie is filled with vitamins A and C. One cup of cooked bok choy offers more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance of A, and close to two-thirds of the RDA of C.
Bok choy can grow in the same type of containers that traditionally serve as homes for houseplants, but it needs a much larger pot than the average ornamental. Bok choy grows fast and needs lots of water, so the pot has to contain a large volume of soil that can hold an adequate amount of moisture. A traditional container that is 1 foot wide and 20 inches deep holds an adequate volume of soil for one bok choy plant. Self-watering containers hold water in a reservoir beneath the pot, allowing you to grow thirsty plants in a much smaller volume of soil. Bok choy roots are compact and grow close to the surface of the soil, allowing you to grow one plant in a self-watering container half of the recommended size of a traditional container, or four plants in 2-foot diameter pot. Self watering pots allow you to water your plants without getting the foliage wet, which puts them at risk for disease.