When it comes to Asian vegetables, you likely use them all the time or not at all. This article is for those who want to become more familiar with Asian vegetables for authentic cooking. Each vegetable has its scientific name listed, a description, and common ways it is used in Asian cuisines. We would love to see your Asian vegetable journey. Share your photos on Facebook and Instagram. Tag @trueleafmarket so we can see your success!
Bitter Melon - Bitter Gourd (Momordica charantia)
This fruit looks like a green, white, or orange wrinkled, warty cucumber that grows on vigorous vines. Their taste can vary from mild to bitter from cultivar to cultivar. Commonly used in stir-fries, soups, or stuffed. Require warm weather, full sun, and good moisture. Soak seeds overnight before starting indoors or direct sowing. Care as you would for cucumbers.
Pak Choi - Bok Choy (Brassica rapa)
A relative of the cabbage family with a white or light green stem and dark green leaves. These leaves are often used fresh or cooked in salads, sauteed, stir-fried, etc. For fresh use, young leaves are preferred. Like most plants of the cabbage family, pak choi prefers cooler growing conditions and is best planted in the spring or fall. Harvest a few leaves at a time or as the whole head.
Luffa - Sponge Gourd - Chinese Okra (Luffa acutangula and L. aegyptiaca)
Luffa, aka Chinee Okra, is a plant that is entirely edible, including the young fruit (“okra”), leaves, blossoms, and seeds. The mature fruits are usually dried, skinned, and used as a bathing or cleaning sponge. The young fruit is sweet and used as you would a summer squash. Start seeds indoors, and transplant them after the danger of frost has passed. Care for as you would other gourds.
Daikon Radish (Raphanus sativus var. Longipinnatus)
A long torpedo-shaped winter radish is available in white and shades of red or pink. Like other radishes, these have a mildly spicy flavor, can be grown as microgreens, and can be used from the root to their leafy greens. Commonly used in sauces, stir-fried seafood, steamed greens, or diced and pickled.
Edamame - Soybean (Glycine max)
These bushy legumes produce green pods covered with small hairs. They should be grown as you would bush beans. Traditionally the pods are boiled, salted, and served. The beans should be removed from the pod for eating. Soybeans are a great source of plant-based protein, making them popular for vegan and vegetarian diets.
Long Bean - Asparagus Bean (Vigna unguiculata)
These pods are known to reach great lengths, around a yard long, hence their name. They are long, tender, and stringless red or green pods. The vines can reach 8-10 feet long, requiring a strong trellis or support system. These are great options for areas with hot and dry summers as they are both heat and drought-tolerant. Taste like a traditional green bean with a hint of asparagus flavor. Beat eaten in stir-fries or sauteed.
Mizuna (Brassica juncea var. japonica)
A great quick-to-mature spicy leafy green with a compact growth habit. Tolerates heat and produces attractive serrated leaves to be used fresh or cooked. Add to salads in a blend of leafy greens or stir-fry with other vegetables. Commonly added to clear soups with cream.
Napa Cabbage (Brassica rapa, Pekinensis group)
These compact heading cabbages are commonly used in Asian cuisine for coleslaw, stir-fry, and pickled in kimchi. It stores well for 2-3 months when kept cool. Also known as michihli, tientsin, and Chinese celery cabbage. The savoyed green foliage develops on light green or white stalks.
Oriental Mustards (Brassica juncea)
These mustards develop sharp and spicy red or green loose-leaf or heading greens that are tolerant of heat and light frost. Easy for any level of experience in growing. Directly sow in the spring or fall months. Commonly sauteed, steamed, boiled, or added to soups and fried rice. Heading types can be pickled. Not recommended for making condiment mustard.
Shungiku - Chrysanthemum Greens (Chrysanthemum coronarium)
A great leafy green, but the yellow flowers may also be consumed in raw salads or stir-fried with other vegetables. Self-sowing if allowed to develop seeds. Best planted mid-spring and harvested leaf by leaf or the whole plant at once.
Winged Bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus)
These vining beans develop pods with winged edges. The foliage can be cooked as you would spinach, while the beans are used fresh or cooked and are high in protein. The roots are also edible and can be sauteed with the pods, added to soup, or stir-fried with other vegetables.
Wax Gourd - Winter Melon (Benincasa hispida)
These are oblong melons that are up to a foot long and 10-15 pounds. The waxy rind can be carved, and the melon hollowed out. It is then traditionally filled with vegetables, meat, and broth. Steam before serving. Seeds should be started indoors and transplanted after the danger of frost has passed. Care for as you would other melons.
Chinese Broccoli - Chinese Kale (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra)
Broad, soft leaves on thick, tender stems that are commonly steamed, stir-fried, or added to soup. They should first be blanched and then cooked. The stalks can sometimes become rough, simply peel the outer skin before cooking when this happens. Best grown during the cool spring and fall seasons. However, it may be grown into the summer months depending on local weather.
Asian Peppers (Capsicum annuum)
Peppers are a popular vegetable used across the world. Both sweet and hot peppers are common in Asian Cuisine. They can be grown using common pepper growing practices. In asian cuisine it is common to use peppers in stir-fries, sauces, roasted, and in curries.