Consumers continue to demand Asian vegetables not only in ethnic markets, but in supermarkets, farmers' and specialty markets as well.
Their popularity is bolstered by their healthful attributes, particularly their abundance of nutrients and typically low calorie content. Also, the edible soybeans, marketed as edamame, pack plenty of protein.
The draw of new and exciting products tends to stimulate even more interest in ethnic foods. As a group, Asian vegetables are versatile, contributing texture and color to a plethora of traditional American preparations, plus starring in stir-fries. Salad mixes become more enticing with the mild, pungent, sweet or tangy flavors offered by these greens. Their exotic appearance augments their appeal.
Asian greens can usually be harvested very young or when more mature. Consequently, many can enjoy a short growing period. Depending on the variety, many tolerate cold; some thrive in heat. Most are relatively easy to grow.
Many Asian vegetables are known by myriad names. These usually reflect the various regions; in addition, the cuisines of different regions often call for specific types.
The following new or nearly new varieties were available to us by press time.
Edible amaranth varieties include red, purple and green, with some sporting several of these hues. AgroHaitai's new SD-Green, as the name indicates, has large, oval green leaves. This variety grows vigorously and yields well.
Edible bottle gourds are also known as calabash, cucuzzi, yugao, upo, hu lu gua, upo and other names according to region. AgroHaitai has two new hybrids. Indian Long matures its green, 15 to 18-inch, cylindrical fruits in 60 days.
Vigorous, prolific Short Bottle produces very early. This variety resists viruses and tolerates powdery and downy mildew. The cylindrical, 7.5-pound fruits weigh about 2.25 pounds.
Tainong Seeds' new wax gourd, Okinawa Tong Gua, has smooth dark green skin with light spots. Best harvested at 8 by 5 inches and weighing 3 to 5 pounds, this variety is a small dong gua.
In a dark green plant, Bejo Seeds' B-2833 has dense heads with a yellow interior that appeal especially to Korean markets. Maturing in 56 days, it resists tip burn, gray speck and soft rot.
For both spring and fall production, CR Mini Spring bolts slowly and tolerates clubroot and downy mildew. Maturing in 55 to 60 days, this AgroHaitai hybrid weighs about 2.25 pounds per head.
Emiko, also bred by Bejo Seeds, produces wide, barrel-shaped heads up to 6 pounds. It resists clubroot, pepper spot, tip burn, soft rot and yellows. A Chinese type, its leaves have a savoyed texture and mild taste. The 14-by-6-inch heads have dark green wrappers. Because it demonstrates good field holding ability and bolting tolerance, summer production provides tender leaves for stir-fries and mild fresh salads.
Quite popular in Asian cuisines, Chinese kale has numerous names. AgroHaitai lists Chinese broccoli, kailaan, kai lan, gai lan, guy lon, white flowering broccoli, gaai laan, jie lan, kai lan tsoi, gelancai, chair lan, kairan and gailon.
Vigorous and uniform, with dark green leaves with less wax, hybrid Noble Jade produces in 50 to 55 days. AgroHaitai notes it is shorter than Green Jade.
Stokes Seeds BeSweet 2001 edamame.
Stokes Seeds reports that BeSweet 2001 ranks high in flavor among edible soybeans. The protein content of edamame is high, plus BeSweet has a soluble sugar level averaging 13.2 percent. This variety produces extra-large, greenish-yellow beans on 2-foot-high plants in 94 days. The beans will hold their sugar for two days if kept in an airtight container in cold storage. The beans can be used for tofu or salted as a snack. Siegers Seed also distributes this variety.
BeSweet 292's pods of edible soybeans can be harvested in 85 days. The plant reaches 24 inches in height. Rupp Seeds will have seed available for this top variety, licensed from AVRDC in Taiwan, in 2013.
T.A. Seeds has the license to produce and distribute Moon Cake, a new USDA-developed variety of edamame. This edible soybean reaches 5 to 6 feet tall. After the pods with their nutrient-rich beans are harvested, the leaves and stems provide high-protein forage for livestock.
RS151, from Rupp Genetics, matures in 100 days. A Natto-type edible soybean with yellow hilum color, this traditional Japanese soy food can produce fermented whole soybeans. In addition, Korean markets demand RS151 for bean sprouts.
Dark purple, slender and 8 to 8.5 inches long, Shoya Long produces Japanese-type eggplants of uniform size, shape and color weighing about .5 pound each. Siegers Seed distributes this Takii-bred variety, which matures in about 55 days.
The productive, 2-inch-long, Thai-type chili hybrid Dan Fong has medium maturity. The Chinese call this very hot chili Chao Tien Jiao.
AgroHaitai also distributes the hybrid jalapeno, XG Hot. At 4 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, it weighs about 1.5 ounces.
This increasingly popular group of greens also has various names depending on its type and production region, including bok choy and tatsoi.
From AgroHaitai, Big Choi, with pure white petioles and dark green leaves, yields a uniform, crispy and tasty product.
Shiro, a baby white stem pac choi, produces single-serving-size, mild-flavored greens 4 to 6 inches high in about 30 days. Johnny's Selected Seeds recommends it for restaurant sales. It performs well in cool weather.
Tainong Seeds' Sweet Bok Choy tolerates high heat. This upright, semiheading variety with white petioles and medium green leaves has shown high yields. It matures in 50 days.
Undergoing testing by Tainong Seeds, hybrid Shanghai Miao produces 6 to 7-inch-tall petioles and small, medium green oval leaves on a tight bulb base. This variety works well in cold weather.
A compact Canton pak choy, Toy Choy has thick, broad, milky white petioles and glossy dark green leaves. Ready in 30 to 35 days, this Sakata-bred hybrid tolerates summer heat. Rupp Seeds recommends it for Asian and specialty markets.
White Bok, also distributed by AgroHaitai, grows upright. This compact plant's green leaves contrast with its white petioles.
With a sweet flavor, Alpine's roots measure 5 to 6 inches by 2 to 2.5 inches and are white with green shoulders. Johnny's says its bolt tolerance makes it suitable for spring and summer sowings. This type of daikon is the most commonly grown in Korea. Maturing in 55 days, it can be used fresh, pickled or stored.
Despite its name, Spring Hope performs well in spring and fall. This Tainong Seeds hybrid shows extra-late bolting and very late pithiness. It matures its all-white, tapered, 14 to 16-inch-long, 2.5-inch-diameter roots with medium green leaves in 60 days.
A semibush kabocha, TN01 allows more production with less acreage. This Tainong Seeds variety has dark green mottled skin and bright orange flesh. Easily grown, it weighs 3.5 to 4 pounds.
Tainong Seeds also has a new personal-size Mini Kabocha. This productive vining hybrid has dark green skin and tasty yellow flesh. It weighs 1 to 1.5 pounds.
The author is a writer-researcher specializing in agriculture. She currently resides in central Pennsylvania.