Growing a stir fry- Pak-choi

by Ciaran Burke

Pak-choi stems

Quick, easy, healthy and tasty, stir frying retains the goodness of your freshly harvested vegetables and with the addition of chili, garlic and spices you have a quickly prepared and flavoursome meal. This year in the garden we have grown pak-choi. It is a cabbage relative, Brassica rapa Chinensis Group with distinct wide white midribs which widen towards the base to give the plant a wide rounded bottom. The stalks and leaves are both used. They are easily grown and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Pak-choi stems

Growing Pak Choi

Soil type and situation

Fertile moisture retentive soil in an open sunny situation. As with all brassica family crops they dislike acid soil conditions so lime the soil to achieve a pH of 6.5.

Sowing and growing

Sow directly into soil. Early crops tend to bolt and bolting often happens if pants dry out. We often sow in modules or seed trays in the tunnel  and transplant into outdoor beds without any problems. Pak-choi can be used as cut and come again crops where you cut the leaves away as you need them or you can allow them to form heads.

BOLTING: this is where  vegetables produce flowers prematurely and go to seed before forming heads or completing their vegetative growth phase. It is often caused by dry conditions, sowing too early in the year or by transplanting of certain types.

Pak-choi can be sown repeatedly throughout the summer to ensure a supply. last sowings can be made outdoors about 6 weeks before the last frost.

Space plants about 15cm apart. When sowing in rows you will need to thin seedlings. Thinned seedlings can be used in salads.

Harvesting

Pak-choi can be used at any stage, seedling leaves mature heads or even flowering stems.

When using the leaves only treat as a Cut and Come Again (CCA). Cut leaves when they are between 4-13cm high, often first cut can be made within 3 weeks of sowing. CCA treated plants can remain productive over many weeks or even months, especially when grown in tunnels.

For heads they can take at least 6 weeks depending on the season. Cut across the base of the plant and they often re-shoot, otherwise you can pull up the whole plant.

When cooking, trim off the leaves from the wide midrib. Cook the midribs first then add the leaves at the end as the leaves cook very quickly.

Pak-choi leaves

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