The Joy of Bok Choy


The following is an excerpt from Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers, and Lovers of Natural Foods by Dianne Onstad. It has been adapted for the Web.

Chinese Cabbage (Brassica chinensis, B. rapa)

The Latin name Brassica derives from the Celtic bresic; chinensis designates the plant’s Chinese origins.

General Information

Long appreciated for its delicate flavor and crisp texture, Chinese cabbage has been cultivated since before the Christian era. It has been described as a cabbage that even cabbage haters love—it is crisper, juicier, sweeter, and more tender than common cabbage. There are several varieties of Chinese cabbage, the two most popular being bok choy and Pe-tsai. All form a head, but the head varies from round like cabbage to elongated like romaine lettuce; also, the crinkly leaves may curl inward or outward.

Buying Tips

In most markets, at least one form or another of Chinese cabbage is available year-round. Select fresh, light-colored greens with plump ribs. Squeeze the heads to find a firm, heavy one. Avoid those that have wilted leaves with any rot spots. Small dark specks, however, are naturally occurring. Chinese cabbage stores exceptionally well (but not so long as cabbage), and the flavor even improves when it is slightly wilted.

Culinary Uses

Chinese cabbage’s sweet flavor is enhanced with long simmering, and the leaves become silky soft but hold their form. Try it in soups and stews, baked, or braised. It’s also delicious when lightly cooked (stir-fried, steamed, or blanched) or even raw in a salad, where its thin, crispycrunchy leaves add great texture and make an excellent salad base on their own. The blanched leaf makes a flexible and excellent wrapper that is, compared to common cabbage, easier to work with yet more delicate. Pickled Chinese cabbage, kim chee, the signature dish of Korea, is as easy to make as sauerkraut, the pickled cabbage of equal prominence in German cuisine.

Health Benefits

Chinese cabbage is cooling and beneficial to the lungs, stomach, and liver channels. It also moistens the intestines and treats constipation. It is an anti-inflammatory and useful in cases of yellow mucus discharge and other heat symptoms, including fever. According to Oriental medicine, stalk vegetables raise energy and are expansive and cooling foods. All Brassica genus vegetables contain dithiolthiones, a group of compounds that have anticancer, antioxidant properties; indoles, substances that protect against breast and colon cancer; and sulfur, which has antibiotic and antiviral characteristics.

Recent Articles

Survive the Winter Blues: Grow, Eat and Plan

There is no denying it: the days are short and unless you planned for a winter garden, fresh vegetables from your backyard have long passed. But don’t let the winter get you down. There are plenty of recipes to last you through the cold season and into the ‘hungry gap’. And we’ve shared a few…

Read More

8 steps to Fermented Hot Sauce with Wild Greens

Like hot sauce? Fermenting? Wild greens? This Fermented Hot Sauce with Wild Greens recipe from The New Wildcrafted Cuisine has it all! Wild foods are becoming increasingly popular, as more and more people want to learn how to identify plants and forage for their own ingredients, but self-described “culinary alchemist” deeply explores the flavors of…

Read More

Books to Curl up with this Winter!

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading…

Read More

3 Steps to Start Your Plants Off Right

How you handle your seeds and your practices around seeding is your first chance to get your plants off to a good start and help them achieve their full potential. Ben and Penny Hewitt, authors of The Nourishing Homestead, have developed a three-step process which starts with inoculating the seeds, then sowing them in high-quality…

Read More

All-Star-All-Sprout Salad

At this point in winter, if you haven’t already exhausted your cellar of root vegetables, then you’re probably exhausted with it. But just because the ground outside may still be frozen, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fresh greens.Without a greenhouse or expensive equipment, it’s hard to imagine a reality in which you can have fresh…

Read More