Growing Pak-Choi/ Bok-Choi

Pak-choi is a vegetable that has been in cultivation for a long time in Asia,  Possible thousands of years. Pak-choi is widely used in Chinese cuisine as well this vegetable is extremely popular in the rest of Asia as well. The is confusion with its name as many areas know this vegetable as Pak-choy, Bok-choy, Bok-choi, Pak-choi or Chinese cabbage to name a few. This may have come about as a misunderstanding as how the Chinese name for this vegetable is translated, regardless of what you know this vegetable as, this is and extremely versatile vegetable that is extremely flavour some and tender which can be used in a wide assortment of dishes.

As this vegetable is sometimes known as Chinese Cabbage, this is reference to the fact that this vegetable is classified in the Brassica genus, along with cabbages, Cauliflower, Kale and Broccoli to name a few. Pak-choi also belongs to the Mustard family, so they have a distant tangy, somewhat spicy flavour as of that link. Pak-choi can come in a wide variety of sizes and colours thanks to the development of specific cultivars.  

Classic Pak-choi has white crunchy stems and a dark green leaf, both as which are edible and delicious. In Asia, the smaller the vegetable is, the more favourable the vegetable is viewed, because the smaller plants tend to be more tender, while outside of China, people seek out the larger plants as they are under the impression that the larger the better. If you can grow the smaller varieties or by smaller plants, you may find them to be tastier and more tender. Large Pak-choi has the tendency woody and lacking in flavour.

Tender young Pak-choi only requires a very brief cooking time, with the leaves taking even less time to cook than the stems. Some cooks will separate the leaves from the stem, adding the leaves at the very end of cooking so the leaves only slightly wilt before cooking, the stems can be cooked a little bit longer, though may people prefer the stems to be crunchy rather than softened. Pak-choi can be used in Stir-fries, soups, curries, spring rolls salads and numerous other dishes.

Growing: This is a fast-maturing, versatile and tasty crop to grow in your vegetable patch or containers on your porch. Pak-choi, like many other Asian vegetables are a cool season crop, preferring moist conditions and the ideal temperature range or 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, light frosts are tolerated by most varieties, generally the ideal time to plant is in the spring and autumn.

  • Dry temperature areas: September to April
  • Temperate & Cool regions: September top March
  • Warm temperate and Sub-tropical regions: March to September
  • Semi-arid and arid regions: March to October
  • Tropical areas: March to September

Varieties

The 4 most popular Types are:

White stemmed: These varieties grow to around 30cm, light to dark green leaves that often curl outwards, white stems that are short, wide, and generally flat. Great for stir-frying

Green stemmed: they have a broad, flattish light green and smooth stems, wide at the base and generally harvested at around 15cm tall, generally used in salads but are also good in stir-fries.

Squat Canton types: these are generally a short compact variety with wrinkled dark green leaves and white stems. They are sometimes harvested early as baby Bok-choi and have a good heat tolerance.

 Soup spooned Type: These grow to around 45cm tall and has cupped ladle like leaves with white stalks.

Seedlings or seeds: You can directly plant Pak-b into the garden bed or in to pots and thin out as they grow, or plant into seedling punnets and then plant them out later. The seeds are small so don’t plant them deep. I sprinkle the seed on top then water them in well and have great success in that method. They only need a light covering of soil to keep them moist.

Growing Ideas

Pak-choi likes uniform conditions and full sun excepts in the parts of Australia with hot summers, high temperatures and long days will cause them to bolt to seeds.

These plants are shallowed rooted and will require frequent watering, especially in hot and windy weather. Mulching and dripline irrigation may be helpful.

These plants may require wind protection and good air circulation.

Pak-choi like rich loamy soil with high fertility, good drainage, and plenty of organic matter.

Pak-choi likes  pH of between 6.5 and 7 and are sensitive to a pH of below 6. If pH is low add some agricultural lime a couple of weeks before planting.

Pak-choi is best grown quickly for great flavour and texture, add some seaweed solution at planting and every couple of weeks while growing.

Harvesting: Pak-choi grows fast and will take between 35 and 50 days to harvest time. Harvest what is required for the day, or just cut some leaves as required and they will continue to grow.

Pests and diseases. Like Cabbages,  Pak-choi can suffer the same problems, they can be susceptible to powdery mildew, aphids, caterpillars, snails, and slugs. For Caterpillars and aphids, I use a mixture of Molasses and liquid soup to spray the plants to get rid of them.

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