Asian Delights (Part 11)
by Judy Heyer
Continuing with our foray into Asian gardens, below are three more vegetables that are simple to grow, a real taste delight, and may just become 'old favorites' in your garden.
1. Ho Lon Dow or Snow Peas (Pisum sativum)
Snow peas have a wonderfully fresh, taste-of-spring flavour. Stringless, they can be eaten pod and all. Culture is similar to regular garden peas. Direct seed them into your garden in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Snow peas can be sown again in August for a fall harvest, and frozen for a winter supply when spring is but a memory.
To get the peas off to an early start, soak the seeds in a glass of water overnight, then plant them in the garden. Seeds can be planted very close together - 2"-3" apart. A trellis or some form of support will be required. Snow peas mature in 65 - 80 days.
Like other peas, snow peas require cool, moist weather. The ideal soil is light and fertile, with a pH of 6.5 - 7. Mulching will help keep the soil cool and weeds down. Peas can be harvested when they are flat pods (2"- 3" long), just as the seeds begin to swell. Once plant production is complete, cut them back to ground level. Keep the cut roots in the soil as they will provide extra nitrogen to the soil. The green, dried portion of the plant can be added to the .
Crunchy snow peas are wonderful eaten fresh, added to salads, or steamed until they're tender-crisp.
2. Gai Lohn, Guy Lohn, Chinese kale, Chinese broccoli (B. oleracea)
Gai Lohn resembles Western broccoli, except that the florets are smaller and loosely-formed. It has a mild mustard-broccoli taste, and the entire plant can be eaten - leaves, stem and buds. If you are unable to keep up with production, and the plant gets away from you and the flower buds open, it is still quite edible (open (unlike regular broccoli).
Gai Lohn is another cool weather crop that thrives in a rich, friable soil. Direct seed into the garden in early March for a summer harvest, and again in August for a fall harvest. Plant seeds 4"-5" apart, and thined to stand 8-10" apart once the seedlings can be handled (approximately 3" tall). If planted for a fall harvest, insects are less troublesome.
The main stalk and side shoots are ready for harvest once the flower buds start to form. Gai Lohn requires approximately 70 days to reach maturity, although some hybrids are ready for use in 40 - 50 days.
Chop the tender stems into chunks, add the chopped leaves and buds into stir fry dishes, or steam lightly until tender crisp.
3. Lo Bok or Daikon, Oriental Radishes (Raphanus sativus)
There is a pronounced difference between Chinese and Japanese radishes: Chinese radishes (Lo Bok) have a mild, sweet flavour, whereas the Japanese variety (Daikon) have a sharp flavour, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Japanese radishes are longer and more tapered than the Chinese radishes, averaging up to 18" in length. These are large, slow-growing radishes that outdo their spring cousins when it comes to size.
Oriental radishes make an excellent fall crop, as they require cool temperatures to develop properly - a spring planting may cause the plant to bolt before the roots reach their full size..
Oriental radishes require a deep, rich soil with all lumps or rocks removed. Plant the seeds 1/2" deep, and an inch or two apart, then thin to 8" apart. They require a lot of water to keep the flavour mild and to avoid becoming woody. Oriental radishes are really best grown as a fall crop. Planted in early summer, you can begin harvesting in September. The radishes keep well into fall with a mulch covering. Time from planting to harvest is approximately 50 - 60 days.
The roots of Lo Bok and Daikon can be eaten raw, shredded as a side dish with the addition of a little vinegar and sugar, or sauteed in butter until tender crisp. Young radish leaves can also be eaten and are high in Vitamin C and calcium. Steam the leaves lightly and serve with a little salt and butter.