Getting Acquainted with Asian Greens

Welcome back! The Waverly Farmers Market is well underway (see our last post for more info), and we’re happy to see so many people interested in buying locally. This week and in the weeks to come, we’re offering a variety of luscious greens, plant starts, and other naturally-derived products. 

One of the foods we’ll be offering is Asian greens. This is actually a group of several different vegetables in the brassica family—meaning they’re related to cabbage and broccoli. We grow mizuna, vitamin greens, tat soi, and Tokyo bekana. You might have seen Asian salad mixes at the grocery store before, or even tried some yourself. But how much do you know about the plants themselves?

Like much of the produce we enjoy today, all of these leafy vegetables have been cultivated for a long time. Tat soi, for instance, has been grown since 500 A.D., and considering mizuna’s deep roots in Japanese culture, it’s probably pretty old, too. Interestingly, Tokyo bekana is a bit more recent. It’s believed to be descended from Chinese cabbages brought home by Japanese soldiers, only about a hundred years ago.

While the names of these plants might be unfamiliar to you, they’ve received a lot more recognition than you might realize. For instance, mizuna and Tokyo bekana are some of the very few crops that have been grown on the International Space Station! They’ve helped scientists learn more about how plants grow in space, so that astronauts can cultivate their own food in orbit.

Just like all of our produce, Asian greens are full of valuable nutrients. All four of our varieties are very high in vitamin A, along with moderate amounts of vitamins C and K, calcium, and iron. Mizuna, in particular, is rich in antioxidants, which can help fight off cancer.

And, of course, these delicious and nutritious vegetables can be used in quite a few ways. Besides being great in a salad, they can also be stir-fried, or even cooked in broth to create a warm, nourishing soup.

If you’re interested in trying some Asian greens for yourself, make sure to check our Farmers Market page on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We sold out this week, but we should have plenty more in weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s a recipe that will help you put them to good use. Thanks for stopping by, and peas out!

Farmers Market Green Salad with Fried Shallots

  • 1/2 pound (4 large) shallots
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • 6 cups of mixed greens, loosely packed
  • 1/3 cup radish sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Cut the scallions into 1/8-inch-thick slices. In a heavy-bottomed 10-inch skillet, cook the shallots in oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they turn golden, 15 to 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels to drain; season them with salt. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the oil for dressing the salad, and cool the shallots to room temperature. (The shallots may be fried 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.)
  2. Just before serving, toss together the greens, sprouts, reserved oil, vinegar, and sea salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle the shallots over the salad.

Photo by Christel Jensen from Pexels

Recipe found in Bounty From the Box by Mi Ae Lupe