Chinese vegetables offer a veritable treasure trove of variety and flavor. You don’t have to live in China to grow them either — most will thrive in almost any garden.
In this guide, we discuss our top 20 picks, offering growing tips for a bountiful harvest.
Chinese Vegetables List
Here are our picks for the top 20 Chinese vegetables to grow this season:
- Pak Choy (Bok Choy)
- Chinese Kale (Gai Lan)
- Gai Choy
- Chinese Squash (Opo)
- Red Amaranth
- Chinese Cabbage (Napa Cabbage)
- Choy Sum
- Dou Miao (Snow Pea Shoots)
- Daikon Radish
- Chinese Long Bean
- Chinese Chives
- Chinese Celery
- Chi-Chien Peppers
- Bitter Melon
- Angled Luffa
- Chinese Eggplant
- Snake Gourd
- Chinese Watercress (Kang Kong)
- Hon Tsai Tai
Let’s take a closer look at each one on the list and what you’ll need to grow them in your garden.
1. Pak Choy (Bok Choy)
Pak choy or bok choy is a non-heading variety of Chinese cabbage. It produces dark green leaves and thick white stems. Easy to grow and with an unmistakable flavor, it’s one of our top picks for garden cultivation.
How To Grow Pak Choy
Pak choy is a cold-season crop and can be planted in early spring, after the last frost, or in early autumn. It thrives in partial shade and well-draining, nutrient-rich soils.
This fast-growing vegetable can be harvested three to four weeks after sowing, but for baby bok choy, you can pick it when the plant is only three inches tall. Mildly sweet, peppery, and with a crunchy texture, it works well in Asian-style stir-fries.
2. Chinese Kale (Gai Lan)
Also known as Chinese broccoli, gai lan is a staple ingredient in many Asian dishes. All parts of this vegetable are edible, including the leaves and flowers.
How To Grow Chinese Kale
You can plant gai lan seeds outdoors starting mid-spring. This cold-season crop prefers soils rich in organic matter, plenty of sun, and daily watering. It takes around 50 days after sowing to reach maturity.
Use the cut-and-come-again method to harvest the young stems, and the vegetable will continue to produce new growth. Gai lan stems are juicy, tender, and similar in flavor to broccoli.
3. Gai Choy
Gai choy is an exciting variety of Chinese greens. Often sold under the name of Chinese mustard or brown mustard, it has a distinctive taste, with a sharp, pungent aroma and noticeable spiciness. The seeds can be eaten or used to make homemade mustard.
How To Grow Gai Choy
Sow gai choy seeds outdoors in spring, after the last frost, or autumn. For an abundant harvest, this crop needs cool temperatures, regular watering, and plenty of compost or manure. Gai choy is ready to harvest eight weeks after sowing.
Pick the younger leaves and cook them the same way as spinach, then allow the plant to flower if you want to harvest mustard seeds.
4. Chinese Squash
Opo is a variety of Chinese squash grown for its long fruit, which can reach up to two feet in length. The taste is a surprising mix of cucumber and summer squash. In cooking, you can use this Chinese long squash the same way as zucchini and even eat it raw.
How To Grow Chinese Squash
This is a warm-season crop, best planted in mid-spring. Soak the Chinese squash seeds for eight hours, then plant them in a part of your garden that gets full sun. The soil should be very well-draining and rich in organic nutrients.
Opo squash reaches maturity after 75 days. Harvest the fruit when it’s around 15 inches in size. Otherwise, it can develop an unpleasant taste and texture.
5. Red Amaranth
Red amaranth is one of several Chinese leafy vegetables known under the name of Chinese spinach. It is an edible flower that’s been cultivated for millennia for both leaves and grain. This fast-growing crop needs little care and, in some regions, it even grows as a weed.
How To Grow Red Amaranth
The amaranth plant is not too pretentious when it comes to growing requirements. Sow it outdoors in late spring, in a part of your garden that gets at least six hours of direct sun. It can tolerate a mild drought and doesn’t typically need fertilizers.
You can harvest the leaves and stem tips when the plant is around 2 feet tall. For amaranth grain, wait about four months after sowing until the flowers are dried and covered with brown chaff.
6. Chinese Cabbage (Napa Cabbage)
There are several heading varieties of Chinese cabbage, but Napa cabbage is the best-known one. You can find this Chinese green vegetable in almost all supermarkets, but growing your own is much more rewarding.
How To Grow Napa Cabbage
Napa cabbage is a cold-season crop. You can sow one crop in early spring and another one in early autumn. This vegetable needs plenty of water and compost and a liquid fertilizer once every three weeks.
Make sure that temperatures don’t go above 73 F (23 C), or the head won’t develop properly. Chinese cabbage can be harvested 70-100 days after sowing or three weeks after the head has started to form.
7. Choy Sum
Also known as yu choy, choy sum is a variety of flowering Chinese cabbage. It looks very similar to gai lan and can grow up to 8 inches in height. The taste is sweet and mild, with a hint of pepper, but it can become more pungent as the plant matures.
How To Grow Choy Sum
Plant choy sum seeds outdoors in early spring, in a part of your garden that receives partial shade. This plant grows best in cool weather, which will also give the stems a sweeter taste.
The soil should be nutrient-rich and well-draining. Choy sum does not tolerate drought, so remember to water regularly. You can harvest the stems around 60 days after sowing. The flowers are also edible.
8. Dou Miao (Snow Pea Shoots)
Dou miao is the young, tender shoots of the snow pea plant. They are very popular in Chinese cuisine and are often used as microgreens.
How To Grow Dou Miao
Dou Miao is one of the easiest Chinese green leafy vegetables that you can grow. In fact, you don’t even need to plant them in the garden. Simply fill a container with a bit of moist soil, plant the snow pea seeds, and keep the container in a warm, sunny room.
The seeds should take about a week to germinate. Allow the shoots to reach four inches in size, then harvest by cutting them with a sharp pair of scissors. Growing dou miao is so easy; it can even make a fun activity for kids.
9. Daikon Radish
Daikon radish is an increasingly popular variety of Chinese root vegetables. The root can grow up to 18 inches in length, which is where the name “daikon” (meaning “big root” in Japanese) comes from. There are several varieties of this vegetable, with the Chinese cultivar having a higher tolerance to heat.
How To Grow Daikon Radish
Sow daikon radish seeds outdoors in early summer. The soil should be loose, well-draining, and very rich in organic nutrients. Keep the plants watered regularly, and apply an all-purpose fertilizer once a month. Daikon radish is ready to harvest in about 50 days.
The root has a mild, tangy taste, and it’s less peppery than regular radish. We recommend eating it fresh, in salads, or pickled.
10. Chinese Long Bean
Also known as yardlong bean or asparagus bean, this fantastic variety of Asian bean can grow pods that are up to 18 inches long. The beans are harvested when young and have a sweet aroma and mild grassy notes.
How To Grow Chinese Long Bean
Chinese long beans can be planted directly in the soil without any soaking. Sow them in mid-spring, after any chance of frost has passed, in well-draining, aerated soil. Yardlong beans don’t typically need fertilizers, but you will need to provide them with a trellis to climb on. Cultivars with smaller pods can be harvested after 50 days, but extra-long pods will need to be harvested 90 days after sowing.
11. Chinese Chives
Chinese chives are similar to the chives you find in most supermarkets but with a pronounced garlic flavor. They are a very versatile crop and can be grown in your garden soil, in containers, or even in a hydroponic system.
How To Grow Chinese Chives
Sow the Chinese chives seeds outdoors in early spring in a loose, moist, yet well-draining soil. They’re not too pretentious when it comes to water, but don’t let them dry out. Full sun exposure is ideal. You can harvest Chinese chives when they are about 12 inches tall. Remove the flowering heads to prolong the plants’ growing season.
12. Chinese Celery
Another wonderful variety of Chinese green leafy vegetables, Chinese celery, is smaller than Western celery but packs a lot more flavor. Also known as nan ling celery, it is rare in supermarkets, which is why we encourage you to grow your own.
How To Grow Chinese Celery
Start the Chinese celery seeds indoors, then transplant them to your garden after the last frost has passed. This herb prefers soils that drain very well and are rich in compost. Water the crop well and provide it with a well-balanced fertilizer once a month. Chinese celery is ready to harvest 60 days after sowing, usually when the stems are about 12 inches tall.
Also known as Chinese flat cabbage or spinach mustard, tatsoi is a leafy vegetable closely related to bok choy. The juicy, tender leaves are often used in salads and have a pleasant sweetness, with a mild mustard kick.
How To Grow Tatsoi
Tatsoi is a cold-season crop. Sow the seeds in the garden after the last frost has passed. For a continuous crop, we suggest sowing it in several turns, once every 5-7 days. Keep the soil moist but not soaked. This fast-growing plant doesn’t need fertilizers and can be ready to harvest in as little as three weeks.
14. Chi-Chien Peppers
If you want to add a bit of heat to your vegetable garden, chi-chien peppers are perfect for the task. These spicy peppers are very popular in China, but rare outside of Asia, which is another reason why we recommend growing them.
How To Grow Chi-Chien Peppers
Chi-chien peppers need a lot of sun and warmth for healthy growth. Start them from seeds indoors, then transplant them in late spring. Pick a part of your garden that gets at least six hours of sun, and plant them in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil.
Water lightly, and apply a fertilizer rich in phosphorus and potassium once a month. The peppers take 100 days or more to mature and can be picked when they’re green or red.
15. Bitter Melon
Bitter melon or bitter gourd is a popular vegetable in Chinese cuisine, used for its health benefits and unique aroma. The fruit is elongated, with round bumps on the skin, and has a pronounced bitterness, especially when young.
How To Grow Bitter Melon
Bitter melon grows best in hot climates. The minimum temperature for this crop is 77 F (25 C), so cultivating it in a greenhouse is ideal. Plant the seeds in a soil mixture that’s rich in compost and moisture-retentive. These gourds will need a strong trellis to climb on.
Manual pollination is encouraged if you want an abundant yield. The fruit can be harvested 70 days after sowing when it’s about five inches long.
16. Angled Luffa
Also known as Chinese okra, angled luffa is an Asian vegetable closely related to pumpkins and zucchini. It produces long, edible fruit, which is also used to make luffa sponges.
How To Grow Angled Luffa
Angled luffa needs a lot of sun, warmth, and moisture to grow. We recommend growing this tropical plant in a greenhouse on a sturdy trellis. It’s not too picky about the soil but can be very sensitive to drought.
Keep the plant well-watered, and use manual pollination to encourage the fruit to set. Angled luffa takes 65-90 days to reach maturity. Harvest the fruit when young, or allow it to dry on the vine if you want to make sponges.
17. Chinese Eggplant
Chinese eggplant is one of the many varieties of Asian eggplants you can grow in your garden. It produces long, slender fruit with a creamy texture, mild sweetness, and thin skin that does not require peeling.
How To Grow Chinese Eggplant
All eggplants are a warm-season crop, and the Chinese eggplant is no exception. Start this vegetable from seeds indoors, then transplant it to the garden in late spring. Provide it with a lot of sunlight, well-draining soils, and a monthly fertilizer application.
Increase the soil moisture when the fruit is beginning to develop. The plant reaches maturity in about 60 days, and the fruit can be harvested when it feels firm to the touch and before the seeds begin to develop.
18. Snake Gourd
As the name suggests, snake gourd is a variety of Chinese squash that produces slender, elongated fruit. Often, you can even find the gourds growing in a twisted shape. The taste and texture are similar to cucumber, but the fruit can become hard and fibrous when ripe.
How To Grow Snake Gourd
The ideal temperature for growing snake gourd is around 80 F (27 C). You can either grow it in a greenhouse or germinate the seeds indoors and transplant them to the garden in late spring. Pick a spot that receives full sun exposure and provide the plant with a trellis.
Water the plant regularly and manually pollinate the flowers in the evening. The fruit should be harvested when young, typically 2-3 weeks after it has started developing.
19. Chinese Watercress (Kang Kong)
Chinese watercress or kang kong is a trailing semi-aquatic plant with edible leaves and stems. It is one of the several varieties of Chinese spinach you can grow in your garden.
How To Grow Chinese Watercress
Soak the Chinese watercress seeds for 24 hours to encourage germination. Grow the plant indoors throughout spring, then plant in the garden in late spring or early summer. This plant can tolerate many soil types, but as a semi-aquatic crop, it needs a lot of water. You can start harvesting the leaves and stems 60 days after sowing and eat them raw or cooked.
20. Hon Tsai Tai
Hon tsai tai is a type of Chinese greens grown for its purple stems and edible, yellow flowers. It is closely related to yu choy, and it’s not uncommon to find it in specialty shops under the name of “purple choy sum.”
How To Grow Hon Tsai Tai
Hon tsai tai is a cool-season crop, best grown in early spring or early autumn. Sow the seeds outdoors in well-draining, well-composted soil. Give the plant plenty of sunlight and water frequently, especially when it’s young. This fast-growing crop can be harvested as early as 40 days after sowing.
With these 20 Chinese vegetables in your garden, your dishes are sure to come alive with a host of new flavors and experiences. So, get stuck in and let us know which are your favorites!
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