These quick, tasty and useful plants are traditionally sown from midsummer onwards - a sowing time often overlooked by home gardeners.
They are ideal to keep your plot going through late summer, autumn, winter and the springtime hungry gap.
Do give them a go – this has become the biggest-selling part of the catalogue, and once people have tried them they come back for more & more.
They are especially useful if you don't have the space or time for traditional winter veg like sprouts and broccoli.
If you're wondering how to cook them, these are incredibly versatile and to be honest you just can't go wrong – they are nice raw in salads, cooked alone, or mixed in with any favourite recipe.
Note: Dark Green = usual sowing & harvest time. (Pale Green = alternatives / extensions)
But first . . . a new book: "Oriental Vegetables" - by Joy Larkcom
This is another beautiful book by Joy, which has only recently come back into print. This is THE book if you are wanting to know about all the wonderful vegetables grown by billions of gardeners in the east - but relatively unknown here.
It was an old ex-library copy of the first edition that really got us enthused about trying out all the oriental veg, and as a result we now have a really good selection in the catalogue, so we're really pleased to be able to offer the book as well now it is back in print.
This is an excellent reference book as well as a 'how-to' gardening book, as clear and easy to use as all of Joy Larkcom's books, with nice clear line drawings. Based on notes from her long vegetable-exploring trips to China and Japan, this book is a wonderful introduction to the huge range of oriental vegetables that are little known in this country, but easy to grow and delicious to eat.
Each individual variety of vegetable included is described in detail, with growing techniques, harvesting instructions and recipes, so you will know exactly what to do with all your crops once you have grown them.
We love this book particularly for the large section on oriental brassicas, which are a great resource for the gardener who wants crops all year, as they grow most happily in the cooler months. But there ar masses of other vegetables too - roots, beans and herbs, to mention just a few. Even the most experienced gardener will learn from this book - and new gardeners are certain to be inspired by it to expand the range of what they grow.
Paperback, 288 pages . . . a large format (about A4 size) book that makes a beautiful present.
Or, even better, what makes a very nice gift, is the book and our newly expanded 'Oriental Explorer' seed collection of 9 different oriental vegetables. The seeds are all varieties referred to in the book, come in a pretty green paper packet, together with notes, and have been chosen not only for their good results in the UK, but also to illustrate the different families of vegetable greens mentioned in the text. Together the book and seeds would delight any adventurous gardener.Order the book: BkOR - £
Order the Oriental Explorer Seed Collection - £
'Wa Wa Cai Choi' Zha Cai Stem Vegetable (a.k.a. "The Thing")
So, definitely our strangest new vegetable. And it is really, really good! Zha Cai is a unique sort of plant from Szechuan in China, where it is famous. How on earth to describe it?
The stem is swells up like a kohl-rabi but making lots of bumps rather than one big one. The stem and leaves can be used sliced in salads, cooked, pickled or stirfried. The flavour is delicious, like the centre of a head of broccoli.
However, slightly tricky timing-wise: If sown in normal Spring sowings it will just bolt – instead, sow in September for overwintering, or sow VERY early right at the start of Spring under cover.
It makes leaves quite quickly, say 4 or five weeks to a reasonable plant size; then it makes the swollen stem which should be ready roughly 3 months later.
We have only been able to grow it well under cover, although it is perfectly cold-hardy - when we grow it outdoors it doesn't make the knobbly bits. So for now we recommend a greenhouse or polytunnel only, ideally grown overwinter.
Order OVWa - approx 200 seed £
'Sobi' Chinese Salad "Cabbage"
Sobi is a very quick growing oriental green that makes large open heads of pale green leaves.
Don't be put off by the name. This fantastic plant isn't a cabbage at all; it’s shaped like a Pak Choi with long white stems and gently wavy leaves. It has juicy white midribs that you will recognise as the yummy bits from your chinese takeaways, and the tender leaves have an excellent flavour.
It is quick to grow even from a Spring sowing and has a great flavour raw in salads, or cooked as a green.
Particularly tasty stir-fried, also good for winter & early spring salad stuff.
Order OvSb - approx 500 seed £
"Komatsuna" Japanese Green
Komatsuna is an incredibly versatile green from Japan and Korea with leaves used as a cooking leaf like Kale or Chard, or used raw in salads.
It is delicious, cold tolerant and easy to grow all year - you get small plants after about 30 days, or bigger after about 70 days - and you can harvest at any time.
There are so many ways to grow this, you can't really go wrong:
- Either sow direct - or in a seedbed, or in pots and then plant out.
- You can sow several times from spring to autumn.
- The main sowings are in spring and summer.
- You can also sow in late summer/autumn under cover and they will grow overwinter in an unheated polytunnel or greenhouse
So the easiet thing is to sow in a drill about 5cm apart and then progressively thin to about 45cm apart as the plants get bigger, eating the thinnings as you go.
The plant is not only delicious, but also drought and cold resistant.
Order OVKo - approx 200 seed £
"Santoh" Quick Yellow Pak Choi
A very fast growing pak choi from Japan, this has very pale green (almost true yellow) rounded leaves that can be harvested as soon as just one month after sowing.
This did really well in our 2008 salad trials, and has been a favourite ever since. It is excellent both cooked and in salads.
The great thing about this variety is that it is very quick, and resistant to bolting. Most pak choi has to be sown after midsummer - but this one can do well EVEN if sown in early spring.
Super-quick, ready 30 - 40 days after sowing. Can even be sown in Spring.
Order OvSA - approx 200 seed £
When? Three options. 1) Sow from midsummer onwards for head production. 2) sow in early spring for leaf production. 3) Or even try in late summer under cover for overwinter growing in a polytunnel.
Mizuna is one of the simplest oriental greens, and gives a very rapid return from a small space. It is an excellent salad crop, tolerant of both hot and cold weather – with a good texture and flavour.
The leaves are ready for harvest within 3-4 weeks of sowing, and plants will continue to produce for months. This is a specially quick-growing variety, with deeply cut leaves that give plenty of lift to your salads.
An excellent salad crop at many times of the year, being tolerant of both hot and cold weather without bolting.
High returns from a small space.
Order OVMZ - approx 500 seed (we give you lots so you can sow repeatedly) £
When? One of the very few you can sow most of the year without much risk of it bolting.
Red Mizuna NEW
Tremendously good looking, this is a vigorous plant with deep red veins and a lighter red blush to the leaves. It is a brilliant (in all senses of the word) addition to your salad, and very easy to grow.
Apart from the deep red colour it is a normal Mizuna - quick and easy, the leaves are ready for harvest within 3-4 weeks of sowing, and plants will continue to produce for months.
An excellent salad crop at many times of the year, being tolerant of both hot and cold weather without bolting, although in hot weather its trace of mustard ancestry (where the red came from) shows up as it can sometimes get slightly spicy in midsummer.
Rare red variant of Mizuna!
Order OVRZ - approx 450 seed £
Mibuna Also quick and easy
A quick and easy cut and come again salad for cooler weather.
Mibuna makes big bunches of narrow oval leaves which you can just pick by the handful. Productive and easy to grow, and also tasty cooked.
Order OVMB approx 300 seed £
Stock:When? Mibuna is a cool-weather plant. Normally you would sow it either in very early spring, or after midsummer. This is because in hot temperatures it is likely to bolt (flower) rather than grow lots of leaves.
This is a totally new vegetable we introduced for the first time in 2006. It was created by Frank Morton by crossing Tatsoi with Mizuna.
We really like it. It combines the bolt-resistance of Mizuna with the big leaves of Tatsoi. You can sow it in spring or midsummer, and it very quickly makes big rosettes of dark green leaves that are delicious raw or cooked.
Every time we grow it we are simply amazed by how quickly and hugely the plants head up. For a sense of scale, the yellow thing in the photo is a standard 4-inch plant label!
Wonderful.. Limited seed every year, so order early.
Order OVMS approx 200 seed £
When? Sow in Spring or after midsummer: like mizuna, it is very tolerant of different sowing times.
'Tsoi Sim' Japanese Flowering Shoots & Leaves
A very easy and quick catch-crop green. An amazing vegetable from Japan, this grows very quickly - ready in just 3 or 4 weeks - giving vividly glowing green leaves and flowering shoots that are great cooked or raw.
All parts of the plant has a fantastic flavour, and it is really easy to grow - harvest young when it starts to make flower shoots - just before the flowers open is ideal. Harvest young as it flowers - take whole plants, cook the flower shoots and leaves all together. You’ll need 6 or so for a meal, so we give you quite a lot of seed.
Tsoi Sim runs to seed quicker (a response to lengthening days) if sown early in the year but that’s OK as you’re growing it for the flower stems anyways. So, sow repeatedly at any time, but you’ll get bigger plants if sown after midsummer.
Sow repeatedly at any time, but particularly after midsummer. In late autumn, sow under cover for production over winter.
Order OVSi - about 300 seed £
When to sow?
Like many oriental greens, Tsoi Sim runs to seed quicker (a response to lengthening days) if sown early in the year - but in this case that’s OK, as you’re growing it for the delicious flower stems anyways.
So, sow repeatedly at any time, but you’ll get bigger plants if sown after midsummer (as it will only experience shortening days.)
"Welcome" Chinese Flowering Shoots (Red-stem)
This is a new variety we have chosen to complement the green Tsoi Sim above, which is so popular with everyone. It is a fantastic oriental vegetable grown for its flowering shoots, used like sprouting broccoli, but much quicker to grow. This variety has been chosen for its red-purple stem colour.
Use both in salads and cooked.
Normally you sow it in late summer, but very early in spring under cover may be worth trying as well.
Order OVWe 1.5g of seed £
'Hon Tai Sai' Purple Sprouting Choi
This rather fine new addition to the catalogue is grown for its beautiful & tasty flower sprouts, like purple sprouting broccoli but much faster.
A quick sprouting plant from China with dark green leaves and purple stems - the sweet young flowering shoots are picked with a few small leaves just before the flowers open and used like broccoli in cooked dishes or raw in salads.
Normally you sow it in late summer, but very early in spring under cover is worth trying as well.
Order OVHT 2g of seed £
"Green Days Number 80" Chinese Flowering Shoots (Dark Green-stem)
This quick modern variety from China is one we chose for a contrast with the others above, it makes darker green leaves and flowering shoots that are great cooked or raw. Harvest the tips with a bunch of leaves as pictured just before its flowers open. Delicious!
This variety has been selected for being bolt-resistant. It is also a bit more cold tolerant than others.
Normally you sow it in late summer, but another sowing very early in spring under cover will often work well.
Order OVG8 1.25g of seed (lots) £
"Ogi" Giant Tatsoi
This is a very large Tatsoi that has been bred in eastern Europe for its big heads of dark green oval leaves, with a particularly good flavour.
Rounded slightly crinkled leaves, normally sown after midsummer but you can sow in spring as well.
Order OVOG approx 300 seed £
"Kailaan" stem broccoli
This is a useful & very easily grown green which we added to the catalogue last year.
Our Kailaan is from Japan, and it's a similar plant to our normal broccoli and calabrese, in that it has been bred for its unusual flower shoot shape. The difference is that this has been selected for juicy, succulent thick stems rather than huge buds.
It can be picked small (20 - 30 days old), taking whole plants at a time. Or you just leave it to grow larger (about 60 - 70 days), in which case you can get 3 cuts from it: take the main stem and it will grow new ones from the side-shoots.
This is a really useful vegetable that can be sown in mid-summer or early spring to give a quick yield of juicy shoots that are cooked and used just like calabrese.
Order OvKL - approx 300 seed £
Green Boy (Quick Green Pak Choi)
Another quick pak choi from Japan, this has bright green leaves and white stems. It is ready to be harvested just 5 weeks after sowing, and is good both cooked or in salads.
Usefully, this one can also be sown in spring, as well as the usual mid-summer sowing. For a really decorative effect, grow alternating lines of this and the yellow Santoh.
Quick. Can also be sown in spring.
Order OvGB - approx 300 seed £
When? Sow from midsummer onwards for head production, or in early spring for leaf production.
Or even in late summer under cover for overwinter growing in a polytunnel.
'Tai Sai' White Stem Pak Choi
A nice discovery in our 2010 trials. Tai Sai is a special Pak Choi from Japan, bred for its unusually large and long white stems. It is remarkably bolt-resistant and can be sown in early spring or in midsummer.
The stems are tender and it is quick to grow with a particularly good flavour. It's interesting to see how people in other countries have bred similar vegatables, but starting from different plants; to us this seems to be the pak-choi equivalent of the large-stemmed Chard that is used in Northern Europe.
We were very sucessful growing this in a greenhouse in early spring, getting large heads by the start of May. We were really impressed by the fact that it didn't run to seed even in the heat.
Tall leaves, long white stems
Order OVTa 300 seed £
Also don't forget to try the Oriental Mustard Greens which have their own page.
Saving Oriental Vegetable Green Seed
These greens from Japan and China are from the Brassica family (Cabbages, Kales etc) and are really easy to save seed from. Yet another reason to learn to save Brassica seed - it's the same process for all, so learning one thing lets you save lots of different vegetable seed.
We would really like to encourage you to have a go at saving seed from this family - that's the cabbages, kales, oriental vegetables, broccoli and turnips.
We know many of you save obvious ones like tomato and lettuce seed, but we've noticed that in the past people shied away from doing the biennial vegetables (plants that flower in their second year).
Cheeringly, more people are emailing us to say they've had a go at saving brassica seed, with good results - and we'd like to encourage you to try it too: its incredibly easy, and you get so much seed, you'll have loads to give away.
There's really no need for example to buy Pak Choi seed from us every year at all. You just set aside a patch of good plants (eat any rubbish ones) , and let them flower, making sure that you've got a reasonable number, that they are healthy, and that no other sorts are flowering nearby that might cross with them. You'll get lots of seed pods in August.
Many of the brassicas (turnips, cabbages, cauliflowers etc) will cross with each other very readily
- so only let one variety flower each year.
Flower stalks from a good-sized population are hung up to dry,
then broken open over a bowl (or old baby bath in this case!).
The bits of pod are screened out with a sieve or a soil riddle
- but you can instead winnow them off in a breeze pretty easily if you prefer.
Step-by-step instructions are here on our new brassica-seed-processing page.
And of course, seed-saving is only possible because these are all real, non-hybrid varieties.
It's pretty foolproof - why not give it a go?