What is Bok Choy?

I must confess, leafy greens are my nemesis; I know they are among the healthiest foods available (superfoods anybody??), easy to find at the store and keep well in the fridge, but I just can’t get excited about kale (even fresh from our garden), spinach is only edible when cooked into a lasagna, and chard is just fancy spinach. With these unfounded biases firmly in my head as I perused this week’s box list, I saw bok Choy and immediately lumped it in with these other leafy greens. It took some coaxing and ridicule, but I was persuaded not to remove it from the list. Now, after using it for several different recipes this week, my initial apprehension has been upgraded to ‘this is pretty good…for a leafy green vegetable’ (just have to remember to say that last part).

I found it to be mild in flavor, although I don’t foresee myself eating it raw, as well as meaty enough to stand up to cooking while retaining some texture and flavor (unlike spinach, it is easy to pick out even when cooked along with other veggies). We got a single plant, which grows in a bunch, kind of like celery, but leafy, with stems wider than chard. Because the stems are wide and close together, a lot of dirt was caught on the inside of the lower stems, and definitely took some washing to avoid an extra crunchy meal.
Last week I made a sort of stir fry thing, combining it with other vegetables, then heaping over quinoa. I also added it to a tomato sauce used in an eggplant lasagna. Both dishes were well received at my house, so I am excited to add it to other dishes!

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Along with my recipe research, I have uncovered some other fun facts about this exotic vegetable:

1. Bok choy is in the Chinese cabbage family, which also includes Napa cabbage. It is sometimes referred to as white cabbage, but be sure not to be confused it with Napa cabbage (a serious faux pas in vegetarian circles I am sure).
2. There are many kinds of bok choy that vary in color, taste, and size, including tah tsai and joi choi. Bok choy can also be spelled pak choi, bok choi, or pak choy.
3. The Chinese have been cultivating it for more than 5,000 years.
4. Although the veggie hails from China and is still grown there, it is now also harvested in California and parts of Canada.
5. Just like for most fresh vegetables, don’t wash until you’re ready to use it (don’t ask me why, but my thoroughly unscientific testing has shown it to be true). Unused parts can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
6. Bok choi is packed with vitamins A and C. One cup of cooked bok choy provides more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of A, and close to two-thirds the RDA of C. This is a huge natural boost to the immune system, and I am a firm believer that consuming vitamins directly from vegetables are superior to taking a multi-vitamin, but that’s another blog post….
7. If you are thinking of growing your own, it takes about 2 months from planting to harvest, and thrives best in milder weather (shucks, not suited for the Reno climate).
8. Finally…..Bok choy is sometimes called a “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves.

The bottom line is I foresee more bok Choy on my families dinner table in the future, and recommend giving it a try as an alternative to the more common leafy greens.

Please share any bok choi recipes that I should try!


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