Vegetables are the backbone of Asian cuisine. Meat, fish and chicken are treated more like condiments for the veggies rather than the star of the entrée. Many Asian dishes rely on vegetables not commonly found in the supermarket produce section. While the names and shapes of Oriental vegetables may seem odd to the average Westerner, the tastes are satisfying. These veggies are not difficult to grow and lend an air of the exotic to the vegetable garden.
Choose the Asian veggies you like. Visit an Oriental food market and buy a selection of veggies you're not familiar with. Stir-fry or steam the veggies and taste-test the different ones. If you frequent a Chinese restaurant, ask the waitperson about the vegetables used in the cuisine.
Find a seed source. Most plant nurseries and big box stores carry the tried and true variety of vegetables like carrots, string beans and tomatoes. It takes a little more sleuthing to find seeds for Asian vegetables (see Resources).
Choose an area to plant the Asian vegetable seeds where they will receive six to eight hours of sun. Double-dig the soil, add compost and organic matter. Remove rocks and weeds. Rake smooth and the new bed is ready to plant.
Soak seeds overnight for faster germination. Place large seeds such as peas and beans in a container and cover with warm water. Put small seeds like lettuces and onions on a paper towel. Spray the paper towel with water. Place in a sealed baggie. After 24 hours, plant seeds immediately. Cut the paper towel and plant the seeds and paper towel together.
Create an environment in your garden that is as close to the environment where the Asian vegetables originated. For example: Bitter melon prefers hot and humid weather. If the summers are dry where you live, additional watering will be necessary.
Plant cool-season vegetables in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked and the average date of the last frost has passed. Asian cool-season veggies include: bok choy, edible amaranth, Chinese cabbages, Chinese kale, most greens, radishes and peas.
Plant warm-season vegetables such as corn, cucumber, snake gourd, beans, sweet Oriental melon, bunching onions, hairy gourd, eggplant, edamame and peppers when the nights are above 55 degrees.