Asian Vegetables

Twelve great Asian vegetables.


(Glycine max) Fabaceae; also called green soybeans.

  • Bushy plants bear short, hairy green pods. Harvested and eaten when both pods and beans are still bright green but pods have filled out.
  • Sow seed 1–2 in. deep in warm soil and full sun; cultivate like a bush bean. Space 6–8 in. apart.
  • Traditionally boiled and served salted in the pod as an appetizer; split the pods and eat the beans, discarding the pods. Beans can also be shelled and steamed or boiled. Good protein source.

Long Bean
(Vigna unguiculata) Fabaceae; also called yard-long and asparagus beans.

  • Pods can reach 38 in. long and are stringless and tender. Red or green pods are borne on 8–10 ft vines.
  • Sow seed 1–2 in. deep and 4–6 in. apart after soil has warmed. Provide strong, tall trellises or tepees. Heat and drought tolerant.
  • Luscious flavor is more like an asparagus–bean cross than pure green bean. Best sautèed or stir-fried rather than boiled or steamed.

(Brassica juncea var. japonica) Brassicaceae; known as Japanese greens in China.

  • Attractive, compact green plant matures in 35 days, tolerates heat, and is easy to grow. Serrated leaves are used fresh and cooked.
  • Sow seed in early spring; grow like spinach. Space plants 6 in. apart in the row and 8–10 in. between rows. Make successive plantings. Harvest leaves or entire plant.
  • Blend with lettuce and crisp vegetables for an unusual, nutritious salad. Stir-fry with Asian vegetables. Add to cream and clear soups for flavor and texture.

Napa Cabbage

  • A compact, delicately flavored cabbage, also known as michihli, tientsin, and Chinese celery cabbage. Savoyed green leaves on light green stalks reach 13–16 in.
  • Grow like other coolweather cabbage. Excellent fall crop. Space 1–1? ft between rows. Keep well watered. Matures in 75 days.
  • Use in coleslaw or stirfry for a crisp texture. Traditionally pickled, as in kimchee. Will store 2–3 months in a cool environment.

Oriental Mustards
(Brassica juncea) Brassicaceae

  • Attractive red or green loose-leaf or heading mustards. Loose-leaf types mature in 45 days; heading mustards need 60–75 days. Plants tolerate heat and light frost, and they're easy to grow.
  • Direct-seed in early spring or fall. Space plants 6 in. apart in the row, thinning to 10 in.; use thinnings in salads and stir-fries. Leave 10–12 in. between rows.
  • Mustards are great for spicing up salads and stir-fries. Greens can also be sautèed, steamed, boiled, and added to soups and fried rice dishes. Heading types are excellent pickled.

(Chrysanthemum coronarium) Asteraceae; also known as edible chrysanthemum, and tong ho in Chinese.

  • Beautiful yellow single chrysanthemum flowers are edible, but the plant is grown primarily for the edible leaves.
  • Self-sowing annual. Sow seed in mid-spring; cover lightly with soil. Thin as needed, enjoying thinnings in dishes. Harvest individual leaves or entire plants as needed.
  • Enjoy leaves and flowers raw in salads, or stir-fry leaves with other Asian vegetables.

Winged Bean
(Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) Fabaceae

  • Vining plants produce bean pods with four winged edges.
  • Soak seed for 24 hours before planting. Plant outdoors after frost danger has passed and grow as you would other beans. Grow Thai winged bean in the South, Hunan winged bean in the North.
  • Cook leaves like spinach. Winged pods are delicious fresh or cooked and are high in protein. sautè pods and roots alone or stirfry with other Asian vegetables; also good in soup. Roots have a nutty flavor.

Winter Melon
(Benincasa hispida) Cucurbitaceae; also known as wax gourd, Chinese preserving melon, and white gourd.

  • The oblong melons are 10–12 in. long and weigh 10–15 lbs.
  • Start seed indoors and transplant outdoors when frost danger has passed. Grow as you would any vining melon.
  • Traditionally, the waxy rind is carved, and the melon hollowed out, then filled with vegetables, meat, and broth. It is steamed before serving.