It seems like we went from mud to dust in just a few days – and warmed up a bit in the process. I know it’s hard to think of the fall harvests when your summer harvests have drowned or at least been stunned by the downpour we went through. Sometimes finding the next harvest is the best way to deal with a bad harvest.
I was shopping for some fall plants (mostly cabbage) and came across some pak choi plants. Although I just planted some pak choi seeds in my fall garden, I also bought some plants to set up. I think this is the first time I see it on sale in the fall.
If you’re unfamiliar with pak choi (sometimes called bok choy), this is a type of loose leaf Chinese cabbage, although it’s not as picky about heat and cold as some types of Chinese cabbage. With its striking white stems and dark green leaves, it is ideal for edible landscaping. Even if you don’t like edible landscaping, it looks great in the garden.
Although pak choi is emerging as a popular “low calorie” vegetable, like most leafy vegetables, it is a very good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for health. Studies show that cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy (and cabbage, broccoli, etc.) help reduce the risk of developing cancer. It is packed with anti-cancer compounds such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, folate, and selenium. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cell damage from free radicals, which may help lower your risk of cancer. Selenium can help slow the rate of tumor growth. Bok choy is also high in fiber, which keeps your digestive system healthy and may help prevent colon cancer.
Like other dark leafy green vegetables, bok choy is a great source of flavonoid quercetin. Quercetin can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can help lower your risk of developing a variety of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Pak choi is a cool season crop and it is a very fast growing vegetable with maturity dates of 40-50 days, so you still have time to grow some this fall before the first frost if you plant it. right away. This vegetable grows in a compact upright form, so it is ideal for container gardening as well as conventional gardening.
Like most vegetables, pak choi prefers a sunny spot, but I’ve found that a little afternoon shade can help protect it from the heat of the day. Once you’ve chosen a location to plant it, prepare the soil by digging in organic material, like compost or rotten manure. The extra nutrients in the soil will help it grow faster.
Plant seeds 1 / 4-1 / 2 inch deep and 3-4 inches apart. Gently press down on the soil to secure the seeds and remove air pockets. Water abundantly.
When the plants are about 4 inches tall, you can thin them out and use the small plants in salads. You will want to leave about 12 inches between the plants. Pak choi can be harvested at any time during its growth. You can remove individual stems / leaves or harvest the whole plant in one go. If you remove the larger outer leaves near the bottom of the plant and don’t damage it, it will continue to grow.
The pak choi can start to get carried away if the weather starts to heat up too much. If the plant begins to send out a flower stalk, it means that the leaves are starting to harden. At the first sign of a flower stalk, it’s time to harvest the entire plant.
If you haven’t tried this pretty plant in your garden, I hope you will take the opportunity to do so. Pak choi can also be grown as a spring crop, just in case your garden is full this fall.
Peter Sutter is a long-time gardener and participant in MU Extension’s Callaway County Master Gardener program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected],