Asian Greens

Chinese vegetables give Islanders more options for winter fare

After December’s excesses and lack of light, January brings on a desire to simplify, detox, and eat more greens. While this month may still be dark, at least you can harness the light photosynthesized into chlorophyll by plants. And now, due to our rising Chinese population, a whole new slew of yummy greens are becoming readily available.

Perhaps you have seen bok choy, gai lan or yu choy at your local grocer but have been wary to try these mysterious leafy vegetables? I am here to encourage you to expand your healthy green horizons. Asian greens are easy and fast to prepare. Three minutes of steaming or six minutes of sautéing is all it takes. They are flavourful on their own or enhanced with a sauce.

Bok choy is high in vitamin K, C, and A and its pungent flavor may help with clearing stuffy noses and chest congestion, particularly when tossed with fresh garlic, grated ginger, sesame oil and a splash of vinegar. Quartering it lengthwise is a pretty touch.

Gai lan, also known as Chinese broccoli, has a dark hearty leaf, similar to collards and a thick, delicious broccoli-textured stalk. Also high in vitamin K, this vegetable can help direct calcium to bone tissue and keep it out of the arteries.


Yu choy looks similar to gai lan with a broad dark leaf, but with thinner stalks and small edible florets. Super high in vitamin A and C, yu choy is a very healthy option and fun to add to your palate if you are getting bored of the spinach and kale craze.

In traditional Chinese medicine, darky leafy greens are seen to detoxify the liver and help build blood. So add these greens into your diet to help clear out the excesses of the holiday season and encourage your body to stay healthy throughout the heart of winter.

In season, organic bok choy is available through various CSA (community supported agriculture) subscriptions and at local farmers’ markets. At the Charlottetown Farmers Market, the Doctor’s Inn and Weedy Gardens offer up this taste of Asia. Atlantic Grown Organics now offers organic fresh ginger root available year round and with a bit of detective work, you will surely find other great sources for these types of greens across the Island.

Given our growing Chinese population and the expanding palate of Islanders, it would be great to increase our locally farm selection. At present, the Global Foods Specialty Store trucks in these vegetables from Toronto once a week. Perhaps with some vocalization on our part as eaters, our local retailers and growers will respond to the increasing demand for locally-grown specialty greens and even offer organic options.

The bok choy, gai lan and yu choy available at grocery stores currently come from Mexico. I recommend soaking in water with a splash of vinegar for a few minutes and rinsing thoroughly to remove as much of the spray as possible.

About Harmony Wagner

Harmony Wagner began training with the North American Tang Shou Tao Association and her teacher Vince Black in 1996. She underwent a formal apprenticeship with the Four Winds Health Center and was licensed as a Registered Acupuncturist through the CTCMA of British Columbia in 2001. She practices Traditional Chinese Medicine and teaches NATSTA gongfu and qigong in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

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