Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Autumn Asian Greens

Asian Greens Stir-FryGreens and spring go together in most people's minds, but greens and fall? Yes indeed, and yes please!
After the hot dry days of summer, the autumn rains come, and salad greens and cooking greens return to farmers markets even more lush, sweet, and abundant than in the spring. In fact, Asian greens prefer the shorter, cooler (and pest-free!) days of autumn.

Naturally Sweeter

The first nights that dip down into the 30s signal the greens to add more sugars to the liquid in their cells. The higher concentration of sugar functions as a natural anti-freeze, lowering the temperature at which the plant cells will freeze, burst, and die. This makes the Asian greens (as well as related greens such as collards and kale) amazingly cold tolerant. They can withstand a hard frost and snow, providing us with fresh greens into November and sometimes through December. What the plant’s natural protection mechanism means for you is amazingly sweet and tasty greens--a last delicious hurrah before the growing season ends.

Interchangeable Varieties

Asian greens come in a huge array of shapes and textures--ranging from the more common bok choy and Chinese cabbage, to the less common Japanese choy known as Komatsu-na, to Chinese broccoli (gai-lan), to the emerald green tatsoi. My favorite is the tall, slender choy sum (or yu choy) with its bitter-sweet taste and yellow blossoms.
But don’t let all these varieties confuse you. They can be used interchangeably in most recipes, and no matter which you add to your favorite stir-fries, sautés, and soups, they will be delicious.
Asian greens are in the crucifer family, the superstars of good-for-you food. Cruciferous plants provide lots of vitamins A, C and K, plus tons of calcium, folic acid, beta-carotene, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. They are also low in calories and high in fiber.

Asian Greens Stir-Fry


3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 pounds Asian Greens, any combination, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds


  1. Wash greens, then slice the stems and leaves crosswise into 1-inch pieces. 
  2. Heat a flat-bottomed wok or heavy skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly.
  3. Pour in the oil, swirling to coat the sides of the pan. Add garlic and stir-fry 10 seconds. Add the Asian greens and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry 4-6 minutes, until crisp-tender. Serve drizzled with sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Seasonal Cook's Notes:

Of all the fall greens, Asian greens are one of the easiest to prepare. Just don’t overcook them and don’t overwhelm them with too many seasonings. After all, it's the simple choys that give life its meaning.

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