While it’s typically grown for the tender and delicious stalk, A Choy also known as Taiwanese lettuce makes a wonderful addition to Asian-inspired salads and stir-fry recipes.
A Choy isn’t common in major supermarkets, but you can usually find this interesting vegetable in Chinese markets.
This article will discuss how to grow A Choy at home with success, and we will also share some ideas of how to prepare Taiwanese leafy greens.
What Is A Choy?
A Choy is a member of the lettuce and daisy families and is primarily grown in Taiwan. The leafy green vegetable is often blanched before it’s sauteed with garlic and butter.
A Choy will have a thick, white root-like stalk and sharply pointed leaves. Many people call A Choy Sword Lettuce because of the shape of the leaves. It’s also commonly referred to as Celtuce—a combination of celery and lettuce—which aptly describes the flavor of the stalks and leaves.
Taiwanese lettuce is very versatile and adds complex flavors and textures to lots of different dishes. The greens and stalks are packed with essential nutrients and vitamins.
Despite its popularity in Southeast Asia, Taiwanese lettuce is rarely grown commercially in the United States.
How to Grow A Choy at Home
We will share everything we know about growing A Choy at home so you’ll have great success when you start your garden.
Where to Buy A Choy Seeds
A Choy grows readily from seeds, and the best place to buy them is through seed vendors online. You’ll want to find a reputable seed company that provides healthy, true seeds.
Unfortunately, many lettuce varieties can easily cross, so starting with seeds from a plant that is isolated from other varieties is important. Seeds from plants that are crossed with other variants may produce unexpected results that are unsatisfactory, including weak plants that are prone to disease and infestations.
Some of the vendors selling A Choy seeds include:
- Kitazawa Seed Company, Oakland, CA
- Trade Winds Fruit Company, Santa Rosa, CA
Some areas may also have specialty delivery services available. You can check your local area for fresh A Choy lettuce delivery services.
Starting A Choy Seeds at Home
A Choy seeds are easy starters that require very little attention from the gardener. Like most lettuce varieties, A Choy does best in cooler temperatures.
Most gardeners will have the most success starting seeds indoors in a seed tray two to three weeks before the last frost. In most areas, two growing seasons can be used with the first plants maturing in spring and the second batch maturing in late summer or early fall.
A Choy seeds require light to germinate, so seeds should be sown no deeper than ½” in loose, well-draining soil. Seeds will germinate best with soil temperatures between 6 and 70 degrees F. Seeds will germinate within 14 days. A tip to sprout seeds in hotter weather than optimal is to place the seed on a damp paper towel in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for two to three days.
With proper weather conditions, A Choy seeds will readily start in your garden, but they should be protected from hungry pests. A wide variety of bugs, slugs, and animals will happily devour your tender young seedlings.
What Are the Soil Requirements of A Choy
Like many types of Asian greens, A Choy has a weak root structure that thrives in pH-neutral soil. Therefore, it’s essential to properly prepare the soil for growing Taiwanese lettuce.
The most important thing is to ensure your garden is well-draining to prevent fungal rot and other diseases. Use between one inch and three inches of fertile compost when planting A Choy and you’ll have big, strong plants in no time.
What Are the Watering Requirements of A Choy
Leafy green lettuce varieties require regular watering. A Choy prefers moist—but not wet—soil over dry soil. More important than the amount of water is the consistency of water. Inconsistent watering will cause the plant to stress and flower rather than produce leaves.
Planting and Spacing A Choy Seedlings
Seedlings that have been started indoors should be hardened off for three to five days before planting. Seedlings should have a few true leaves before transplanting to your garden. Space seedlings one foot apart in rows that are two to three feet apart. Spacing ensures mature plants have plenty of room and can be easily harvested.
Can A Choy Grow in Containers?
Many gardeners use raised beds or containers for growing A Choy. Container planting ensures the soil is of high quality and also helps to prevent damage from nibbling pests.
Container planting is a great way to grow A Choy in most parts of the US and lets the gardener control the environment much better.
When to Harvest A Choy
Traditionally, A Choy is harvested when the leaves are about 10 inches long. Harvested leaves will not grow back, and it’s most common to harvest the entire plant at once rather than leaf by leaf. If the gardener is looking to grow A Choy for the edible stalk, it can be harvested once it reaches a diameter of about one inch.
Tender, young leaves are usually ready for harvest within 30 days, while the stalk may take 50 to 60 days to reach maturity.
Diseases and Pests Common to A Choy
Most lettuce varieties are susceptible to a wide range of pests, and A Choy is no different.
Common insects include aphids and a broad range of caterpillars. Slugs and snails are particularly damaging to A Choy crops. Grasshoppers and crickets will also readily feed on A Choy, particularly when the plants are seedlings.
The use of a commercial or homemade insecticide can effectively prevent pests from eating all your A Choy lettuce. Slug and snail barriers will prevent these pests from attacking your garden.
A Choy can be affected by either bacterial or fungal infections. These are most common when planting in the ground because the pathogens live in the soil. Leafy green vegetables like A Choy that are suffering from fungal or bacterial ailments should be removed and the soil should be treated to prevent infestation of the next crop.
The Best Way to Cook A Choy
In Taiwan and Southeast China, A Choy is very popular and is grown year-round. The tender, young leaves are most often chopped and sauteed in garlic and butter along with other vegetables. The leaves have a flavor somewhere between celery and asparagus with a mild, almond-like nuttiness. The stalk is similarly flavored and is frequently thin sliced and sauteed in a wok with other vegetables and meat.
You can also eat the leaves raw in salads. They deliver a delicious crunchy texture with a more mild flavor than the popular bok choy. The leaves are best when they are young. Older leaves and stalks will be less tender and have less flavor.
A Choy Nutritional Values
Leafy greens are packed with essential nutrients and vitamins that are great for your health. Most Americans don’t consume enough leafy green vegetables in their diet, so adding A Choy to your family’s dinner table is a great way to ensure high-quality nutrition.
A Choy is high in vitamin A and C and is also an excellent source of dietary iron and calcium. A half of a bunch of A Choy contains about three grams of protein, too. A Choy is often sauteed in a wok with soy sauce, oyster sauce, or fish sauce, so sodium levels may be too high for some people. Try preparing Choy Sum (the name of sauteed leafy greens) with low sodium soy sauce.
- A Choy is an uncommon, yet delicious Taiwanese leafy green.
- A Choy seeds are most easily found online.
- Home gardeners can grow A Choy in their garden or in raised beds or containers.
- Taiwanese lettuce requires plenty of water but doesn’t have strict soil needs.
- A Choy thrives in cool to moderate soil temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees.
- Many types of insects, pests, and animals will eat A Choy when it is unprotected.
- A Choy is best in a stir-fry recipe.
Growing Taiwanese leafy greens like A Choy at home is really easy, and they provide a nice alternative to the typical greens available in your supermarket. A Choy grows quickly and can even produce two crops per season in many areas.
If you are looking to try something different in your garden this spring or fall, A Choy is an excellent option you should check out.
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