In China, the average vegetable consumption is 300 to 400 g per person per day (Li 1990) which is higher than any western European country or the U.S. Vegetables are basic to Chinese cooking and are found in some form in most dishes. Traditional Chinese cooking methods, such as steaming and stir-frying, are now widely adopted in the west. The use of Chinese vegetables is not limited to Chinese cuisine. Many are used for Oriental and European cooking and may be used as substitutes in, or tasty additions to American dishes.
In China, written record of cultivated vegetables were found 2500 years ago (Li 1990). For thousands of years, China has developed its vegetable industry and has become rich in vegetable resources. More than 170 species, including water, perennial, and wild vegetables are used in China today. Vegetables were also brought to China from all over the world during the last 2000 years. Breeding programs resulted in new vegetable forms and cultivars of vegetables grown for centuries, such as celtuce, Chinese broccoli, Chinese cucumbers, and Chinese melons. (Li 1990). Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, giant oriental radishes, and pak choi are now familiar to the U.S. market, but China has a treasure of lesser-known, delectable, and highly adaptable vegetables which may be easily grown all over the world (Li 1990; Larkcom 1991).
Chinese and Oriental cuisine are of great interest to Americans despite the fact that high quality, authentic fresh ingredients demanded by Chinese cooking are often unavailable. The market demand for specialty and gourmet vegetables continues to expand as more and more attention is given to vegetables by nutritionists, food editors, food suppliers, and restauranteurs. Many vegetables are rich in fiber, minerals, iron, calcium, and vitamins. Vegetables have always been used in China for their curing effects and to keep healthy (Gu, Chen 1989). It is trendy to eat vegetables, especially specialty vegetables, and people are ready for a change.
Data gathered for this experiment of growing Chinese and Oriental vegetables helped determine the feasibility of growing Oriental vegetables for people with interest in diverse vegetables. The research could help farmers in Kentucky grow a diversity of crops and supply new niche markets.
Compared to Beijing, central Kentucky is cooler in spring, hotter in summer and warm longer in fall, making it suitable for growing most Chinese vegetables and especially good for cole crops and all kinds of Chinese radishes. Many vegetables in the cabbage family (Brassica chinensis, B. rapa var., B. oleracea) (Larkcom 1991) are staples in the Chinese and Oriental diet. In Beijing, these crops bolt in early summer and grow well only in early fall. Cold weather eliminates them by early Oct. most years. A short window for sowing seeds is typical in Beijing: 10 days around July 24th for daikon and 10 days around Aug. 8th for napa. However, in central Kentucky, Brassica crops and radishes can be grown and harvested almost the entire growing season except Aug. (Table 2). The continuous market supply is a decided advantage. Growing methods for the crops are very similar to cole crops presently grown in Kentucky.
Successive plantings during three growing seasons (spring, summer and fall) can bring good returns for farmers. Less land is required with successive plantings and many crops can be produced annually (Table 3). Several planting plans can be used, but rotation of crops in the same family is strongly recommended to reduce pest pressure.
As an example, pak choi could be direct seeded into the field on Mar. 10 or transplanted into the field on Mar. 21. By June 1, pak choi is harvested, and yard long beans and/or bitter gourd are planted in the same location. By Sept. 1, harvest of these two crops is completed, and pak choi, tai cai, and/or 'White Rat' daikon transplants are planted into the same location. Three complete cropping sequences can be realized on the same land area.
Taste tests of 15 cooked Chinese vegetables were conducted in 1991. Americans preferred five vegetables for color: beautiful heart radish, Chinese broccoli, taro, snow peas, and straw mushrooms. Americans preferred straw mushroom, snow peas, radish and Chinese chives for their flavor. Daikon radishes were popular in salads, cooking, and pickling recipes. Their crisp, tender, sweet, and juicy characteristics were among high marks given by the taste panel and were an added bonus for this crop.
Specialty vegetables can potentially yield very high returns per square meter. Therefore, they justify more intensive production methods and often require more exacting management.
Since they are often highly perishable, competition is still minimal from distant markets. Produce from California is a key to central Kentucky grocery store prices. Due to the flood in California in 1995, the prices of napa and pak choi were 50% higher for half a year. Kentucky climate gives growers an advantage to grow cole crops and radishes in late spring and early fall when there are no quality products from California.
Freshness of produce is the key to gaining the Chinese market. Without sophisticated post-harvest handling or packaging methods, limit your market radius to easy traveling distance (120 km, 200 miles) to help ensure the freshest specialty produce.
Most importantly, growers must identify specific markets, even before ordering seed. Whether the market is direct retail to consumers, a restaurant, or direct sales to neighborhoods dictates which crops will be grown and what special cultural or post-harvest practices will be required.
|Common name||Mandarin name||Scientific name||Parts used|
|Adzuki bean (red beans)||Hong xiao dou||Phaseolus angularis||Seeds|
|Amaranthus||Xian cai||Amaranthus gangeticus||Greens|
|Basella||Luo Kui||Basella rubra||Greens|
|Bitter gourd||Ku gua||Momordica charantia||Fruit|
|Bottle gourd||Hu lu gua||Lagenaria siceraria||Fruit|
|Boxthorn||Gou qi||Lycium arbarum||Fruit; young shoots|
|Broccoli (Chinese kale)||Gai lan||B. rapa var. alboglabra||Greens; flower buds|
|Burdock||Niu pang||Arctium lappa||Root|
|Celtuce (stem lettuce)||Wo sun||Lactuca sativa var. augustana||Stem; greens|
|Chives (garlic chives)||Jiu cai||Allium tuberosum||Greens; flowers; flower stems|
|Choy sum||Cai xin||B. chinensis var. parachinensis||flower parts; greens|
|Choy sum (purple flowering pak choi)||Hong cai tai||B. rapa var. purpurea||Flowers; greens|
|Chrysanthemum greens||Tung hao||Chrysanthemum coronarium||Greens; flowers|
|Garlic||Suan||Allium sativum||Cloves; flower stems; greens|
|Hairy melon (fuzzy gourd)||Mao gua||Benincasa hispida var. chieh-gua||Fruit|
|Hyacinth beans (pig ears)||Bian dou||Lablab niger||Fruit|
|Luffa, angled (Chinese okra)||Si gua||Luffa acutangula||Fruit; dry fruit|
|Luffa, smooth||Si gua||Luffa cylindrica||Fruit; dry fruit|
|Mibuna greens||Ren shen cai||B. rapa var. nipposinica||Greens|
|Mizuna greens||Shui cai||B. rapa var. nipposinica||Greens|
|Mung bean||Lu dou||Phaseolus aureus||Seeds; sprouts|
|Mustard||Jie cai||B. juncea||Greens; stem; root|
|Napa (headed Chinese cabbage)||Da bai cai||B. rapa var. pekinensis||greens|
|Onion, oriental bunching||Da cong||Allium fistulosum||Greens|
|Pak choi||Bai cai||B. rapa var. chinensis||Greens|
|Pea shoots||Dou miao||Pisum sativum||Sprouts|
|Pickling melon, oriental||Yue gua||Cucumis melo var. conomon||Fruit|
|Pumpkin, Japanese||Nan gua||Cucurbita moschata||Fruit|
|Radish (daikon)||Luo bo||Raphanus sativus||Greens; root; sprouts|
|Soya bean||Da dou||Glycine max||Young pods; dry seeds; sprouts|
|Tai cai (rosette pak choi)||Wu ta cai||B. chinensis var. rosularis||Greens|
|Turnip||Wu jing||B. rapa var. rapifera||Roots|
|Watercress||Xi yang cai||Nasturtium officinale||Greens|
|Water spinach||Kong xin cai||Ipomoea aquatica||Greens|
|Winter gourd Wax gourd||Dong gwa||Benincasa hispida||Fruit|
|Yam, Chinese||Shu yu||Dioscorea batatas||Tuber|
|Yard long bean||Chang jiang dou||Vigna sesquipedalis||Fruit|
|Herbs and wild plants|
|Lemon grass||Xiang mao cao||Cymbopogan citratus||Greens|
|Sesame||Zhi ma||Sesamuum indicum||Seeds|
|Shepherd's purse||Ji cai||Capsella bursa-pastoris||Greens|
|Date to sow and harvest|
|April Cross||sz||s||h||h||h s||s||sy h||h||h|
|Summer Cross||s||s||h||h||h s||s||sx h||h||h|
|New Jersey Cross||s||s||sx h||h||h|
|White Rat||s||s||s h||h||h s||s||s h||h||h|
|Luo Bo||s||s||h||h||h s||s||h||h||h|
|Semi-long||s||s||h||h||h s||s||s h||h||h|
|Napa 50 days||s||s||s||h||h||s||h||h||h|
|Bok choi||s||s||s h||h||s||h||h||h||h|
|Lei choi||s||s||s h||h||s||s||h||h||h||h|
|Mei qing choi||s||s||s h||h||s||s||h||h||h||h|
|Shang hai choi||s||s||s h||h||s||s||s h||h||h||h|
|Tai cai||s||s||s h||s h||s h||s h||s h||h||h||h|
|Mustard greens||s||s||s h||h||s h||s h||s h||h||h|
|Chinese broccoli||s||s||s h||s h||s h||s h||s h||s h||h||h|
|Flowering pak choi||s||s||s h||s h||s h||s h||s h||s h||h||h|
|Pak choi||Yard long beans, bitter gourd||Pak choi, tai cai or 'White Rat' daikon||35-55|
|Radishes (daikon)||Bitter gourd or yard long beans||35-55|
|Cilantro or dill||Cilantro||Cilantro, pak choi, celtuce or dill||30-40|
|Chinese cabbage or Chinese broccoli||Pig ears||50|
|Greens, radishes or garlic shoots||Tomato, Amaranthus or chrysanthemum||Chinese cabage, napa or radish (daikon)||30-40|