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Feb 19, 2009 05:54 AM

Do you grow Asian vegetables?

I'm trying to improve my cooking skills with Asian recipes. Johnny's offers seeds for various oriental greens but except for bok choy, I'm not sure what to try. Even if you don't grow your own, do you have leafy green favorites? What about other Asian vegetables that can be grown in the northeast US? I grow and love the flavor of Thai basil. Do you have a favorite seed catalog for Asian vegetables?

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  1. There's always daikon, cabbage, eggplant, garlic, ginger, lemon grass

    You can try these, but I have no input and no experience with any of them. Google is a magical tool.

    1. I don't grow Asian veggies (or anything else) but I do buy a lot of Asian veggies. From experience, the veggies really range in taste and flavor depending where I buy them. Just thinking that it probably has something to do with the seeds.. you wouldn't want to get stuck buying crappy seeds. I guess it's not worth it to me to grow it b/c Asian veggies are ridiculously cheap where I am..

      11 Replies
      1. re: cheesecake17

        Actually vegetables rely on the soil for flavor FAR more than quality of seed. Either a seed is good (it grows) or it isn't (doesn't grow). From there, the soil and environmental influences impact the flavor and quality FAR more than the seed. Think Vidalia (or any sweet) onions versus regular onions. The vidalia/maui/walla walla sweet onions are that way because of a significantly lower sulfur content in the soil, not because of some fancy seed.

        1. re: HaagenDazs

          Hmm.. good to know. I always thought it depended on the quality of the seed. Thanks for the info!

          1. re: cheesecake17

            Well think about it. Do you think that a seed makes a vegetable organic? Of course not. Organic is determined by the way the plant is grown, like no artificial fertilizers/pesticides.

            And those mealy, pasty, whitish pink crappy supermarket tomatoes? It's not the seed's fault. Those tomatoes could actually be wonderful, ripe, red tomatoes served in the finest restaurants in the world. The reason they're not is because the vegetable is jacked up on artificial fertilizer, picked far too early, thrown in a storage and shipment box and then gassed with ethylene at the appropriate time to make it turn "red" (actually it only turns pink).

            The seed is just an information source. It provides the information for the plant to grow this tall, this wide, and produce this fruit/vegetable. Everything after that is environmental. Of course there are different seeds for different tomatoes, but I think you understand that. A yellow tomato seed cannot produce and red tomato just because of the environment it's in.

            Think if it this way: Do you think the seed has any impact on whether or not a gardener will water it sufficiently?

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              You're right, but if you buy a crappy seed, you're going to get a crappy product. I definitely agree about the tomatoes- that's why I stay away from tomatoes.

              I'm learning something here.. thanks for the info. I guess I'm just not a good grower. I tried growing basil last year, and it truly didn't work out.

              1. re: cheesecake17

                What's a crappy seed? There really is no such thing as long as it sprouts. There are crappy PLANTS maybe, but the result that the plant produces doesn't mean that the seed is "bad". The seed did just what it was meant to do. It grew a plant just the way it was supposed to. Whether or not that is viewed to be good or bad is up to the grower.

                There's some personal preference involved here, like you prefer red tomatoes over yellow tomatoes but that doesn't mean that one seed is any better or worse than another.

                The crappy seed is the one that doesn't grow, right? If it grows, you're then YOU are on the hook for what happens next, not the plant/seed. The best "quality" seed (if there was such a thing) doesn't automatically mean that you're going to get great plants. If you spray the plant grown from a fancy seed with lawn killer, hit it with a weed whacker, or neglect to water it in the middle of a drought, the plant will suffer... THAT'S how you get a crappy product.

                Let's say you're buying tomato seeds. One is a $100 tomato seed from an elite online supplier. The other is the same seed from your neighbor's seed collection that you found under a pile dust and screws in his basement. If both of them sprout, both of the are treated the same, and they both produce the desired result, then which one is crappy? Neither.

                  1. re: alwayscooking

                    Flavor is personal preference. Yield, and size are determined by #1 the type of plant and #2 by environmental conditions. Tomato A bred for size and yield is a different seed that Tomato B that produces less yield and smaller fruits but it doesn't mean that one is better than the other. They are different plants. That's all I'm getting at.

            2. re: cheesecake17

              I haven't bought asian vegetable seeds for several seasons now. The plants go to seed and self sow, come up like weeds. I wonder if they eat dandelions in Asia? It's one of my favorite exotic vegetables.

            3. re: HaagenDazs

              While HD is correct that the growing environment contributes significantly to the outcome of the vegetable, given equal growing conditions, quality seeds will be better than poorer seeds. Seed quality refers to both genetic quality and the quality of the seed that carries the genes. It impacts the yield, shape, size,color and lastly the overall attribute of the vegetable (eg tart, sweet, sour, heat, etc). Quality seeds also germinate better and grow more vigorously yielding better crops. Bottom line, condition the soil and use good seeds.

              Happy planting! (I'm just starting garden planning for my NE urban garden - Spring will come!)

              1. re: alwayscooking

                Correct, but to think that there are lower quality seeds produce a lower quality product isn't really correct. There may be more desirable seeds that produce more desirable results (like heirloom seeds), but it doesn't mean the plant will be better.

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  I believe lower quality seeds do indeed produce a lower quality product, and it can be from a variety of perspectives... old seed, seed that's been in harsh conditions, etc., in addition to everything alwayscooking said. It goes beyond what variety of plant one is saying they're aiming to plant.

                  For instance, this is how one commercial seed company views seed quality issues:

          2. I grow lots of shiso, both red and green, various basils, and long beans. I've grown japanese eggplant, and garlic for the greens. Some others now used in multiple cuisines, such as snow peas.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Richard 16

              Would love to hear how you prepare the shiso... love the taste, never thought of growing my own...

              1. re: okra

                Careful what you wish for. Shiso, (assuming it grows where you live) is a member of the mint family and is notorious for finding it's way into just about everything, everywhere. A weed some might call it. ;-) It's a useful weed though!

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  Purple shiso is an attractive ornamental, like a deep purple coleus, very hardy, lasts well into fall. I made a jar of purple shiso vinegar, I might make some purple sushi someday. So far, I've used some of the vinegary leaves chopped up and sprinkled in winter salads, a nice accent like capers.

                2. re: okra

                  I'll echo HaagenDazs: once you get it going, it's very prolific! I grow it in a container - as I do all my herbs.

                  Although not the same, I use it in almost anything in which I might use basil. Eggs, pizza (although I'm not a fan of it in tomato sauce, it works well on the pizza.). Obviously on sushi, it also works well on salmon, bivalves, shrimp - on any stronger food.

                  I infuse oil; makes a great plate sauce - but EVOO is too strong. For a pesto. Pasta. Tempura is classic. I recently had a dish from a Korean chef with a hot sweet sauce.

                  The bigger leaves get tough; I use them in the infused oil or blended in the pesto. Otherwise I finely chiffonade the big ones. The flowers and seeds apparently are also used although I never have.

                3. re: Richard 16

                  I love shiso, my mother grows the green stuff every year and it is really really prolific. However it tastes a million times better than the crap you buy from the grocery store

                4. The quality of the seed does impact the quality of the grown plant. That, plus good soil preparation and choosing plants that are suitable for your horticultural zone.... there are many variables. I live in zone 6A which is near the coast north of Boston. You can easily find out which zone your garden is in. That's key to making sure your plants do well in your invironment, especially for those plants which are perennial, like Chinese Chives. Ideally, your garden should have at least 6 hours of sunlight. However, many plants will do well with less.

                  Here in the northeast, for about 15 years, I started all my vegetable and annual plants from organic seeds sold by:
                  Seeds of Change
                  Cook's Garden
                  Johnny's Selected Seeds

                  The Asian plants I have started from seed and grown successfully are Thai basil, Thai hot pepper, Lemongrass, Mizuna, Purple Shiso, Chinese chives, Snow peas... to name a few. It's such a satisfying endeavor to grow your own food. Good luck!!

                  1. I've grown the Green Lance (I think that's the name .... a sprouting broccoli) and Napa cabbage from Johnny's, and both were excellent - sprouting broccoli, think the gai lan or 'Chinese broccoli' you can get in chinese restaurants; and napa cabbage, you probably know what that is, a tender mild-flavored cabbage.

                    Also the yard-long asparagus beans are excellent, and if you plant a few plants you'll have more than you know what to do with. This is not a bad thing.