Bok choi (pac choi) in the kitchen and garden

Bok choi or pac choi is my favorite of all the chinese cabbages. It’s tender and sweet and is sturdy enough to last for a couple of weeks in the fridge after harvesting. I love it fresh and sauteed or grilled, and it is full of the wonderful sulfur compounds that are so healthful. Just like the rest of the cabbage family. 

Grow transplants

It is so easy to grow as long as you start early enough indoors. I haven’t seen many transplants available in stores so I always start my own around February first. These babies do not like to be transplanted into larger pots like tomatoes, so they should be grown in small pots that they will stay in until going out in the garden. I’ve had great luck growing pac choi in containers, and in fact prefer that since I can control cabbage worms easily.   

Bok choi in a container

Full sun, good soil

They grow best in full sun in rich organic soil that is well-drained. They should be planted out early – they have the capacity to withstand frost. They are moderate feeders so benefit from a top-dressing of compost or composted manure when planting. Mulch with organic mulch such as straw once they are growing.

And harvest young. I’ve had the best luck growing some of the “baby” varieties that are harvested when about six inches tall. They stay tender, and are early enough that they often avoid the cabbage worms.  

Cabbage moths are much more a problem on broccoli and regular cabbage, but occasionally they will be out early enough to attack pac choi. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), an organic bacterial pesticide that goes after pesky cabbage moth larvae, is easy to apply and safe to use.

Grilled pac choi

Grilled pak choi

Harvest small heads whole and carefully cut off the root end, taking care not to cut into the heart which will cause the leaves to separate (which is also okay because they can be used in a salad).

Sprinkle with a fruity olive oil and lay gently on a grill rack or in a grill basket. Turn with tongs after about five minutes, grill 5 minutes more and remove to a platter.

Splash with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve as a delicious side to whatever you are having as a main course.

You can change up the flavor a bit by using sesame oil instead of olive oil, and splashing with soy or ponzu sauce after they come off the grill.

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