Every stir-fry needs greens and there is none more versatile a crop for the pan than Pak Choi. It doesn’t just satisfy a typical chop suey but can be used in salads and sandwiches because of its delicious flavour and crunch. Depending on when the seeds are sown, it takes about 9 to 10 months for the plant to mature over winter. It is a low maintenance vegetable although it needs to be free of weeds and bolting becomes a problem if it isn’t watered properly. The leaves are best eaten as fresh as possible because they soon lose their flavour after harvest. Remember it is a type of cabbage and has similar requirements to a close cousin, Chinese Cabbage. All cabbages will need certain requirements to be met if they are to be grown successfully.
Choose varieties which are therefore slow to bolt and tolerant to yellowing and other diseases.
If the cabbage is protected, pak choi is grown all year round but will produce its mature heads from early summer to autumn. It can be grown between young Chinese cabbage which is the other Asian variety to try.
Baby leaves are also a must for those supplementing their salads with fresh produce. The leaves can be harvested after just 30 days so it becomes a speedy crop. Full sized leaves are obtained when the whole head has developed to full maturity, usually 1.5 months to 2.5 months after sowing. I find taking leaves as and when they are needed is ideal.
Whole heads are usually cut and fried or just steamed, even whole if needs be – it is that versatile.
Sowing The Seeds
Pak Choi needs some light so any seed sown must not be overly shaded once the plants have formed. Shading is important to avoid bolting later on. Remove weeds and large stones which can impede growth and the ground can then be raked to a fine tilth before sowing. I allow about 30cm between rows of plants, so a string line to mark each row is ideal in this situation.
Create a shallow trench with a hoe and sow seeds evenly spread and about 5-8 cm apart. Any cut-and-come again plants can be sown a little closer. Fortunately, any plants finding themselves too close together can be respaced, thinned or the young leaves used in cooking.
Lightly cover the soil and firm down the seeds. Water the bed thoroughly and evenly. Remember to water the bed well and evenly as these plants require regular and consistent irrigation.
Seedlings appear after about 10 to 21 days. Thin young plants out if fully grown plants are required or just harvest the leaves as required.
To harvest, hold the plant and cut the stem with a sharp knife, close to the surface of the soil.
Repeat sowing as required from January through to October.
Varieties To Try
Pak Choi F1 Mei Qing Choi might be rated the best green leaf variety available. It produces very pale green stems with rich green foliage. It is a good choice for growing full heads, but can also be used for baby leaf production.
Pak Choi Mei Qing Choi has very good bolt resistance and is tolerant of both hot and cold temperatures.
An exciting new slow bolting hybrid, Pak Choi Goku has been bred for early spring and early summer planting. Best used for growing full heads, It produces nice glossy green leaves with pale green stems with rich green foliage.
Quick to bulk up, but holds well for harvesting flexibility, Pak Choi Goku has very good bolt resistance and is tolerant of both hot and cold temperatures.
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