As oriental dishes are becoming more popular in America, so are the vegetables used in those dishes. You can grow these unusual Asian vegetables in your own organic garden.
Mizuna: Also know as Japanese Greens, Japanese Mustard, Spider Mustard and many more.
Mizuna is a compact green plant with fringed, dark green leaves that can be used cooked or fresh. This plant has been described to be slightly spicy and have mild peppery flavor. One can use the leaves in a fresh salad, cooked in a stir fry, steamed, or even boiled. Add them to a clear soup to add color and texture.
The best time to sow seeds is in early spring. You will want to grow this plant like spinach. Space the plants about 6 inches apart. This plant is good for successive plantings. You can harvest the entire plant, or just some of the leaves.
Shungiku: Also known as Chrysanthemum, Tong Hao in Chinese, Ssukgat in Korean, and Kikuna in Japanese.
Shungiku is a beautiful plant that has single yellow flower which are edible, but it is mostly known for the leafy green leaves. Both the leaves and the flowers can be enjoyed in a fresh salad either alone or with other Asian vegetables. You may use the leaves in stir fry, casseroles, soups or many other hot dishes although it is recommended that you wait to the last minute to add the Shungiku leaves. These leaves cook quickly and are known to loose their structure.
Sow seeds in early to mid spring and early fall. This vegetable will not do well during summer conditions causing it to go into premature flowering. You may harvest individual leaves or the entire plant. Thin the plants as needed while enjoying the thinned plants in your favorite dishes.
Daikon: Also known as Chinese Radish, Aukobi-Daikon, or Asian Radish.
Daikon is a torpedo shaped radish that comes in many colors but most commonly white. Larger breeds can get up to 2 ft long and 3 in wide. The root (radish part) is mildly spicy and adds flavor to salads, sauces, and stir fries. In Korea, the daikon is traditionally made into a diced sweet pickle. You can steam the peppery leaves or add them to a soup.
Sows seeds during the spring for a summer harvest, and fall for a winter harvest. When purchasing your seeds, select the variety for the season you are planning on planting. Plants should be spread 6 inches apart. They take about 60 days until harvest. Carefully dig up the entire plant.
Growing unusual Asian vegetables in your own organic garden is fun and exciting. If you decide to grow these or any other Asian vegetables, you better get your Asian cookbook out and get ready to make some delicious meals!
Vegetable Gardening in Small Spaces
Do not let the lack of space be a reason or an excuse to not have a vegetable garden at your home. Thousands of people are in the same situation as you and that is the space they have available to grow fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from seeds is very limited.
Maybe you live in a big city and land available is scarce, or you reside in a condominium or apartment and the only thing available to you is a patio. Either way, there are some great solutions to help you through this. You can be growing your own fresh veggies in no time.
I recently spoke with Tracy Godsey who runs the small container blog Eden’s Container. Tracy started her small space vegetable gardening adventures when growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in containers is all she could do with her limited apartment space, which consisted mainly of a balcony.
“I currently grow herbs on my patio including basil, parsley oregano, thyme, mint and chives. The basil and parsley are the only plants that won’t overwinter in my containers outdoors.”, says Tracy. “In a vegetable garden, full-sized plants can grow in any pot that holds 3-5 gallons of soil. Large plants like tomatoes need 5 gallons, while plants with shallow roots like lettuce can get by in a 3 gallon pot. Even smaller plants like radishes can grow well in trays and produce a harvest very quickly. If you don’t have a container handy, you can make one by filling a plastic tube (such as a garbage bag or bread wrapper) with potting soil. These types of tubes are known as grow bags.”
Tracy reminded me of a very important factor that I had not thought about and that was the weight of what you are growing. If you are on a second floor balcony where weight will be an issue, Tracy recommends, selecting smaller heirloom varieties and grow them in hanging baskets.
Just because you are limited on space does not mean you are limited on what you can grow. Remember to select fruits, vegetables and herbs that you and your family will consume. Since space is a premium you do not want to waste any with items that will get discarded. Be careful not to over water your items in containers and make sure your containers have adequate drainage holes. To protect from the loss of dirt through those drainage holes use coffee filters at the bottom or paper towels. Both options allow water to pass through but not dirt.
On a final note, “never put ordinary dirt in containers, only potting soil,” says Tracy. “You will have much better success since the soil is already formulated for growing plants in pots.”
Now it’s your turn to roll your sleeves up, get some containers, fill them with potting soil and plant the seeds of your favorite fruits, veggies and herbs. Don’t let space, or in this case, the lack thereof, prohibit you from eating fresh from the garden.