Asian cuisine is trendy and so are exotic vegetables. Many of these types of vegetables grow without problems in our part of the world and some, such as Chinese cabbage, have long since established themselves in the gardens, even though they are sometimes used differently in the kitchen here than in Asia. Some Asian vegetables are even hardy and can sometimes be harvested in winter.

Choice of cabbage

Types of cabbage have a fixed place in Asian cuisine. They are mainly used cooked in vegetable pans, as a side dish or in soups. Types of cabbage in the garden are easy to care for, but you should not plant them too early. If the planting takes place too early and it gets cold again, it can happen that cabbage species bloom prematurely.

Chinakohl (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis)

Chinese cabbage originally comes from Southeast Asia, but is now also very common in Europe. It is a popular vegetable to use as a post-culture. Sow at the end of June or beginning of July at the earliest. The Chinese cabbage can be sown directly outdoors and is isolated around August. It likes nutrient-rich soil and the cabbage develops a firm center until autumn. However, this often only forms when the temperatures drop a little.

The Chinese cabbage is harvested before the first frost. With a fleece cover, it can also withstand slightly below zero – but you shouldn’t expose it to these temperatures for too long. When harvesting, one should remove the outer leaves and store only the firm head. However, the shelf life is only limited to a few weeks.
Selection of Chinese cabbage varieties:

  • Grenade
  • Hong-Kong
  • Profit
  • Parkin
  • Mei Qing Choi
  • Yuki

Pak Choi (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis)

Pak Choi is also one of the types of cabbage and has been booming for a number of years. This Asian vegetable can be grown several times a year. Even self-seeding is possible if some plants remain on the bed. The Pak Choi has only a very fine note of cabbage and is eaten fresh or cooked. Hobby gardeners can grow Aisa vegetables outdoors from May.

Thick leaves form after just a few weeks, which can be harvested individually or the plant as a whole. However, the Pak Choi cannot be stored.

Selection of Pak Choi varieties:

  • Choi Choi
  • Tatsoi
  • Misome
  • Mei Qing Choi

Exotic Spices

Spices play an important role in Asian cuisine, as many basic ingredients are sometimes neutral in taste. Spices give them a unique taste, promote health and especially digestion.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Few people know that ginger is actually an Asian vegetable and it can be grown here. However, the cultivation is a bit more complex than with other Asian vegetables. The ginger should already be planted in a pot in winter. It is ideal if you start in December.

It sprout quickly in warm weather and can be transplanted outdoors as soon as it is frost-free. The ginger does not necessarily have to be removed from the pot. In an early culture, it quickly develops the first flowers. Ginger is harvested when the green parts above ground have turned brown. If you want to start using ginger again next winter, you should keep a few tubers.

Tip: If you want to grow Asian vegetables, you will often find them in Asian shops, as is the case with ginger. Root vegetables in particular can be found there and multiplied by yourself.

Wasabi (Eutrema japonicum)

Wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, is known to many as a green paste that is served with sushi. Wasabi is a very spicy root vegetable that is actually similar to our horseradish. Wasabi can be grown in this country, but plants or seeds are difficult to obtain and it is not hardy.
The temperatures may drop to a maximum of 8°C – for a short time it also tolerates cool temperatures just above the freezing point. A temperature of around 20°C is ideal, which means that it does not tolerate hot temperatures even in summer and should preferably be planted in shady and cool places. It can be grown in a pot in a substrate that consists of nutrient-rich compost without any problems.

Wasabi is harvested when the root is 15 cm long. However, wasabi grows very slowly and takes up to 18 months. Therefore, you should overwinter the plant in the same pot in which you plant it.

Tip: In well-stocked specialist shops there is a sporadic variety called ‘Matsum’, which is also not hardy.

Special vegetables

Asian vegetables often seem very exotic and few believe that they can also be grown here. However, many regions are comparable to the climate of Central Europe and with a little extra care and occasional protection from the cold, some special Asian vegetables also thrive here.

Bittermelone (Momordica charantia)

For many, the bitter melon is a taste challenge among the Asian vegetables, as it is actually very bitter. The bitterness is mitigated somewhat by rubbing with salt before cooking.

The bitter melon has a very long cultivation period and it is advisable to pre-culture it on the windowsill. It doesn’t tolerate cold at all, so it can’t go outside until mid-May at the earliest. There it also prefers sunny locations. But it should have a trellis.

Tip: A trellis tunnel made of a metal grid with a height of almost two meters is ideal.

It flowers for the first time about five weeks after planting. The bitter melons are harvested when they are still green. If you want to harvest seeds, you can wait until the melons are yellow in color.

Wing bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus)

The wing bean, also called goa bean, is a special eye-catcher. The seeds are still difficult to get here, but are now offered by well-stocked seed dealers. The wing bean needs a trellis on which it can climb. If you want to grow the bean, you should plan this in advance.

Tip: If you plant the wing bean along arbours, it is a very good source of shade in summer.

Compared to domestic beans, all parts of the wing bean are edible. The pods of the Asian vegetable are harvested unripe like green beans and used for wok dishes. The leaves can be processed like spinach. The wing bean is not very expensive to cultivate, if it has enough sun and a framework to climb, it can develop well.

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)

Okra belongs to the mallow family and once you have seen the beautiful yellow large flowers, you often inevitably fall in love with these plants. The seed pods are harvested in the unripe green state and are often fried with hot spices.

Okra has a long cultivation life because the seed pods do not ripen at the same time. The culture starts indoors from March. Planting outdoors takes place in May. When it comes to nutrient requirements, okra is very flexible, because the plants can also cope well with poor soil. However, the better the location, the larger the plants will be and the more yield they will bring.

Soybean (Glycine max)

The soybean has been cultivated in Central Europe for many years, but primarily as animal feed. Although soy is an important Asian vegetable, it is mainly used in processed form as tofu.

Soy needs sunny locations with nutrient-rich soil that should be loose. The ideal basis for soy is a mixture of half compost and half sand. The mixture is worked into the soil and then the soybean is sown. Sowing starts when the soil has a temperature of at least 10°C, which means that the timing can vary depending on the region. In good conditions, the soybean grows very quickly and is ready to harvest after three months on average.

Selection of varieties:

  • Green Shell
  • Summer Shell
  • Hokkai Black

Wax gourd (Benincasa hispida)

The taste of the wax gourd is a mixture of cucumber and pumpkin. Like some other Asian vegetables, it can be grown here, but it requires a lot of heat compared to other pumpkins. It is therefore mainly suitable for cultivation in a greenhouse. In cultivation, it is comparable to pumpkins or cucumbers, but is much more susceptible to powdery mildew.

If you start growing early, you can harvest up to twice a year. One week after flowering you can harvest the immature wax gourds. If you wait ten weeks before harvesting, the fruits are ripe and can be stored very well, even at room temperature.

Selection of varieties:

  • Long Giant
  • Thai Small
  • Oblong Tong Qwa
  • Round Tong Qwa

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