This Meatless Monday, we feature Asian Greens, with delicious recipes for Bok Choy Stir-fry with Roasted Peanuts and Chinese Cabbage Slaw from Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.

Photo courtesy of High Mowing Organic Seeds

Photo courtesy of High Mowing Organic Seeds


“Asian Greens” is a general term for several leafy vegetables that originated in eastern Asia, including bok choy (also called pac choi), tatsoi, and Napa (or “Chinese”) cabbage.  While these vegetables have been used in Asian cuisine for centuries, they are starting to become more popular in the West, too.  Tatsoi and bok choy are very similar, both growing in loose heads with long, succulent stems and dark green leaves.  Napa cabbage, which resembles an oblong version of the more familiar European cabbage, forms a tight head and has wrinkly, thick-veined leaves.  Many more Asian greens exist (such as komatsuna, mizuna, and mibuna), and while their tastes and textures differ, almost all can be prepared similarly.

Growing Tips

Asian greens tend to be fairly hardy, making them a great crop for spring and fall.  Tatsoi is especially cold-tolerant, able to withstand temperatures below 20°F.  Asian greens are commonly added to salad blends, in which case the leaves are cut when the plants are immature.  Mature plants will yield heads of varying sizes.  Seeds can be transplanted or directly sowed, but transplanting is recommended to grow full heads in the early season.  For baby greens, harvest when leaves are 3-4 inches tall.  For full heads, be sure to leave plenty of room between plants.  Hot temperatures can cause plants to bolt prematurely, so try to avoid growing full heads in midsummer.  Many Asian greens are susceptible to attacks from flea beetles, which can be fended off by protective row cover.


Heads of tatsoi and bok choy will keep in the fridge for several days if washed, dried, and loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.  Napa cabbage will store much longer.  Individual leaves and sliced cabbage will only stay fresh for a few days, so use as soon as possible.  For long-term storage, tatsoi and bok choy can be blanched in water and frozen.  Napa cabbage has traditionally been made into kimchi and canned or refrigerated for long-term preservation.

Nutritional Benefits

Asian greens are notable for their high calcium content.  Calcium is important for the body to build strong, healthy bones.  Asian greens are also high in vitamins A and C and various phytochemicals that are believed to help boost the body’s resistance to cancer.


Avoid choosing greens with yellowing or wilted leaves.  Napa cabbages should have firm, tight heads that are free of worm holes and major blemishes.  Wash your greens and shake or spin dry.  The sturdier the green, the longer it can be cooked (napa cabbage being quite sturdy, tatsoi being more fragile).  Asian greens can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, stir-fried, or eaten raw.  Try slicing and adding to salads for extra crunch and flavor.  Take care not to overcook, as that will diminish flavor and texture.

Meatless Monday Recipe: Bok Choy Stir-fry with Roasted Peanuts

Tracey Kawecki, a, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tested and adapted this recipe.  She made some major corrections on the amount of bok choy to use, as well as offered time-saving tips below, so be sure to cross-reference the Handbook with these suggestions if you decide to try this recipe.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 17 minutes
Cost: Chinese Bok Choy $1.88/lb; ginger $3.99/lb; garlic $0.79/bulb
Cost Estimate for this meal: $2.50

bok choy

Photo courtesy of Tracey Kawecki


  • 1 LB bok choy
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger (see tips)
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut oil
  • Sauce Mixture:
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons stock or water
  • Peanut Topping::
  • 3 Tablespoons raw or roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoons olive or peanut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. If using raw peanuts, heat 1 teaspoon of oil in heavy saucepan and cook peanuts until golden.
  2. Remove peanuts from heat and chop them up with the pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
  3. Cut t the bok choy stems off the leaves. Chop them into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Mix ingredients in Sauce Mix together. Set aside.
  5. Heat a wok or frying pan on medium-high until hot. Add oil, then ginger, then garlic, and stir-fry until garlic turns golden but not burned.
  6. Add the bok choy stems and stir-fry until just tender. Then add leaves and cook until wilted and shiny.
  7. Add Sauce Mixture. Cook for 1 minute.
  8. Remove from heat, add peanut/pepper mixture, and serve immediately.

Time Saving Tips 1: Ginger can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer. Method: Cut ginger into 1 inch chunks. Mince in the food processor. Store in freezable plastic bags, in very thin layer. Pinch off frozen ginger and use directly in place of fresh ginger.

Time Saving Tips 2: To avoid wasting vegetables, steam-fry them ahead of time. Steam-fry method: Bring ½ cup of water to boil in a vessel large enough to fit vegetables. Immediately add cleaned and drained vegetables. Add ½ TB of oil. Cover and shake the pot to distribute things inside. Let steam on high heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Most of the water would have been evaporated, the vegetables would be cooked and brightly colored. Refrigerate the steam-fried vegetables. When preparing the meal, just warm up the vegetables in the microwave, make and heat up the flavoring and sauce, mix in the warmed vegetables and serve.

I did not use the peanuts. This dish is very flavorful. I used my frozen ginger instead of fresh ginger. I’ve also changed edited the ingredients and instructions.

Meatless Monday Recipe: Chinese Cabbage Slaw

Preparation Time: 22 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 22 minutes
Cost: Chinese Nappa $0.98/lb; carrots $?; rice vinegar $?; ginger $3.99/lb; onion $?; cilantro $?
Cost Estimate for this meal: $3.00

chinese cabbage slaw

Photo courtesy of Tracey Kawecki


  • 1 lb Napa cabbage (sliced into thin strips)
  • ½ lb carrots (shredded)
  • ¼ lb onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup cilantro (chopped)
  • Dressing:
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar (or another kind of vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ts chili paste (or anything hot)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup or sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)


  1. Mix together Dressing ingredients.
  2. Toss in the cabbage, carrots, onions, cilantro.
  3. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (It tastes a lot better after sitting for 24 hours.)

Time Saving Tips 1: Ginger can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer. Method: Cut ginger into 1 inch chunks. Mince in the food processor. Store in freezable plastic bags, in very thin layer. Pinch off frozen ginger and use directly in place of fresh ginger.

Time Saving Tips 2: Cilantro and scallion can be chopped ahead of time and will keep in the refrigerator for a week. I clean, drain, and chop all of them on the day of purchase. I store them in a plastic container with a piece of paper towel so that the excess moisture (which often spoils the herbs) can absorbed.

Deliciously refreshing. Excellent balance of sweet, sour, and spicy.

To receive more recipes and tips on your favorite fruits and vegetables, download Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.  We also need more volunteer home chefs for this project.

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