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Bok Choy One of Nature's Fast Foods

Friday 4th January 2008

Bok Choy  One of Nature's Fast Foods

INTRODUCTION

Extremely versatile, highly nutritious, and easy to cook, these wondrous Asian greens suit stir-frying, steaming, poaching, or adding to braises, curries, and soups. Unless braising whole or halved, bok choy generally require little cooking � a brief steam or stir-fry is all that is required. This wonderful �fast food� is also an excellent choice for pregnant women, or women of childbearing age��.

VARIETIES

Bok Choy is often referred to as Chinese White Cabbage, however it is related to the Chard family. There are more than 20 varieties of Bok Choy available in Asia, including Pai Tsai, Shanghai, Pak Choy, Lei Choy and Canton Pak Choi. All of these varieties can be identified by their dark green leaves and white ribs, except for the Shanghai varieties, which produce light green ribs and leaves.

STORAGE

Not only are they fast to cook (and eat), but they are very quick to wilt. Because of their high water content, Bok Choy do not store well, so if possible it is best to use them as you buy them. Otherwise, they can be stored in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

ORIGINS AND CULTURE

Although part of the huge and diverse genes Brassica (along with cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, among others), bok choy (Brassica rapa var. chinensis) and other Chinese cabbages belong to a different species from the green head cabbage that we are familiar with.

Asian greens, such as bok choy, are eaten by more than half the world�s population up to three times every day, however they have only fairly recently become familiar to Western countries. Bok choy has been cultivated in China since ancient times and was introduced to North America in the late nineteenth century. Tiny vegetables are prized delicacies in many Asian cuisines, so baby bok choy, often steamed whole, are special (and sometimes higher-priced) treats.

NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Rich in fiber, vitamins A and C, bok choy are also high in B vitamins, particularly folate � an essential nutrient for pregnant women and women of childbearing age. It is a great nutritional powerhouse, and often referred to as the garden vegetable highest in calcium. All of this for only 24 calories per one-cup serving!
Basic Cooking Instructions

Both the leaves and stalks of bok choy are tender, and impart a mild cabbage flavour. This vegetable can be cooked on its own, or added to stir-fry dishes, soups, salads and side dishes where its flavour blends nicely with a magnitude of other foods. Bok Choy is good boiled, steamed, saut�ed, stir-fried and raw. To prepare, separate ribs and rinse under cold running water to remove trapped dirt particles, drain and chop as desire. Like most leafy greens, Bok Choy reduces in volume as it cooks and can be prepared in as little as 2-3 minutes! It can also be easily substituted in recipes calling for cabbage, spinach or chard. One of nature�s most versatile �fast foods�!

Carolyn Frail, B.A., B.A.Sc., P.H.Ec., is a nutrition consultant and food writer.

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