Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pak Choi in The Pan

This time last year, we had been eating pak choi and kale out of the garden for several weeks. I had started it in little cells in the greenhouse and planted it in the garden in early-mid March. This is one of the beauties of blogging; I’ve got records and pictures so I know I’m not exaggerating.

Plastic trough planters with pak choi, kle and lettuce
This year, there was no way. I tried. I planted a bunch of the pak choi seedlings I had started from last year’s seed* in one of the few garden beds I have so far managed to prep this chilly grey spring. The soil thermometer registered 50 degrees when they went in and has since gone up to 60+, but it’s been very slow growing. Meanwhile, seeing the meteorological writing on the wall, I had stuck some of those same seedlings with about ten kale seedlings in a long plastic trough planter that I’ve been hauling in and out of the greenhouse on bright days. It’s been living outside for the past week or more. The stuff in the trough is about two and a half times the size of what’s in the garden. Last night, I cut the first batch of planter pak choi.
Clipped pak choi on cutting board

I clipped them from their roots, sliced them, and washed the sliced pieces in a bowl of water -- even in the confines of a planter soil works itself between their leaves.

Slicing up those crisp green leaves and juicy stalks was very satisfying. Knowing it’s possible to grow something we can eat, that’s good for you AND tastes good, is – I hesitate to use the word because it’s SO cliché but will anyway – empowering. A container, some organic soil and compost, seeds, water, sunlight and –very important – love, will do it. Like money in the bank. (Also a great learning experience for kids).

Soaking soil from chopped pak choi leaves and stems
I sautéed the chopped stalks (thick bottoms for a few minutes then chucked in the leaves) with three cloves of last year’s garlic, fresh-grated ginger, a little soy sauce, a tin of sliced water chestnuts and a splash of chicken bullion.  The garlic, Music hardneck that I grew last year, dug and hung in bunches on the porch in early July, is now sprouting again, which changes the flavor some (though it’s still really nice roasted whole). Once the cloves sprout this time of year, I slice them in half lengthwise and pull out the green shoot, which tends to be a bit bitter, then mince.

Sauteed pak choi,water chestnuts, garlic and ginger
We ate the sautéed pak choi along with sautéed onions and red peppers. Together, the two side dishes beautifully complimented the broiled New York steak, part of the half of a grass-fed Jersey that I buy from Rock Hall farmer, Owen McCoy, who also raises pigs, ducks, figs, and who-knows-what-all.  Dinner only took about fifteen minutes to make from start to finish. Today, I’m going to cut the kale for soup. I'll quick-sauté the chopped leaves with a shallot and some berbere spice, then fling it all into a little beef stock I’ve pulled out of the freezer. The growing-and-eating season has begun!

*Pak choi seed remains viable and germinates well for several years if kept dry.


  1. Great post... it reminds experienced gardeners and teaches new gardeners that this is an uncertain business. There is no "normal" weather and last year's bounty can be this year's failure depending on crop and time of season. Containers, like row covers and soil thermometers, are great tools of the trade!

  2. Thanks, Jon. I should really take a picture of my currently ghastly garden. We usually only want the pretty pictures of our gardens (and want to see others' since they act as both inspiration and prod to get out there and sort things out in our own patch). But sometimes I think having a look at a big mess that can still produce is encouraging. It lets people know everything doesn't have to be perfect to be good. I should have some lettuce out of one of the few beds I've managed to prep so far by the end of the week unless something goes horribly wrong.


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