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Gai Choy of the Brassicaceae family is also known as brassica juncea, brown mustard, chinese mustard, Indian mustard, leaf mustard, oriental mustard, and vegetable mustard. It comes from Asia, and it’s the most popular Brassica genus mustard green, including dried and ground seeds.
Gai Choy is popular in a variety of Italian, Chinese, and Indian dishes. It grows fast in many different climates, making it a perfect choice for U.S. gardeners searching for something different for their garden.
Our growing guide will give you the information you need to sprout and grow excellent Gai Choy plants for use in culinary dishes.
We’ll show you when to harvest, how to use Gai Choy leaves and the best ways to avoid common problems gardeners growing Chinese mustard greens encounter. You’ll love the fragrant flavor of Gai Choy and appreciate how easy it is to grow fresh vegetables at home.
JUMP TO TOPIC
- What is Gai Choy?
- How to Grow Gai Choy
- Soil Conditions for Gai Choy Growing
- How Much Should Water Do Mustard Greens Need
- Pests and Diseases that Kill Gai Choy Plants
- How to Use Gai Choy Leaves
What is Gai Choy?
It’s common to see Gai Choy sold in stores as Chinese mustard greens or just mustard greens. There are more than 50 varieties, but all resemble loose-leaf Chinese cabbage with broad, thick leaves and white stalks.
Gai Choy is best when you harvest it young as the older leaves take on a bitter flavor. This makes Gai Choy one of the fastest-growing Chinese vegetables you can plant in your garden.
How to Grow Gai Choy
Chinese mustard greens grow very quickly and are best when you harvest them young. The young Chinese mustard leaves are ready in as little as six weeks, and many U.S. regions can grow two or more crops each season. Gai Choy can tolerate mild frosts but won’t survive a hard freeze.
Gardeners in the U.S. will have success growing Chinese mustard greens in USDA hardiness zones six through eleven. Mustard green plants will mature in about eight weeks from planting and grows in Spring and late Summer for two seasons of the crop.
– Starting Brown Mustard Plant Seeds
Gai Choy seeds are easy to start. You can direct sow the seeds in your garden two weeks before the last frost or start them indoors at about the same time. Regions that experience periodic hard freezes in early Spring will benefit from beginning mustard greens seeds indoors.
Sow seeds shallowly, typically about ¼” deep in prepared soil. You should space seeds about 6″ apart in rows 6″-12″ apart. You can grow leaf mustard in pots or containers, too. Its fast growth means a rapid harvest, and you won’t need to spend an entire season caring for the plant.
A great way to get a full season of healthy and tasty Gai Choy leaves is to sow seed every two to three weeks. Gardeners who use this technique will be able to harvest young, tender leaves for several weeks before the plants start to bolt. You can also plant Gai Choy in early Spring and again in late summer in hotter regions.
Soil Conditions for Gai Choy Growing
Like many brassica plants, Gai Choy mustard greens can adapt to a wide range of soil types and pH values.
It does best in neutral to somewhat acidic soils, and gardeners will benefit from turning aged manure and compost into the soil before planting. You can improve your soil by turning it with manure in the fall before spring planting. An ideal soil for mustard greens is loamy and well-draining.
How Much Should Water Do Mustard Greens Need
Mustard greens prefer slightly moist soil and benefit from regular and consistent watering. As with many brassica varieties, gardeners should avoid soaking the leaves when watering to help prevent mold and bacteria growth. Don’t let the soil dry out because mustard greens will bolt and die when stressed by not enough water.
– Where to Plant Gai Choy
The Indian mustard green plants will grow well in full sun locations and thrive in partial shade. The plants do not grow well in high-temperature environments, so it’s best to plant where Gai Choy will get afternoon shade in hotter regions. Shade cloth can also help prevent burning the leaves of your growing mustard green leaves.
Gardeners should avoid planting Gai Choy near climbing plants like pole beans and tomatoes because the tendrils will destroy the Gai Choy. Peppers, eggplant varieties, and strawberries are also useful to avoid because they out-compete Chinese mustard greens for nutrients and light.
– When to Harvest Gai Choy
Within eight weeks, your Chinese mustard greens will be ready to harvest. You can start to pick young leaves from the bottom of the stalk as soon as three weeks. Picking the leaves while they are young is highly recommended- older leaves are bitter and hard to digest.
When temperatures start to rise in summer, the mustard greens will send a large stalk of flowers. This process is called bolting and indicates the plant is fully mature. Try to harvest leaves before the bolt because the Gai Choy leaves turn bitter.
Harvesting seeds from Gai Choy is easy to do and lets you replant for next season without buying a new seed. Plus, the seeds are edible. To harvest mustard seeds, wait until the flowers are wilting and turning brown, then snip the flower into a bag. Let the flower pods dry for about two weeks in a dark, moisture-free area, then shake the seeds loose from the dried flowers.
Pests and Diseases that Kill Gai Choy Plants
Any number of things can go wrong and kill your mustard green plants. Gardeners can often prevent many problems before it’s too late, so knowing what to look for can help identify the problem.
Young, tender mustard greens are delicious, and many insects in your garden will readily eat your greens. Cabbage worms are a common pest that eats irregular holes in leaves and causes lots of mustard greens damage. Other pests include cutworms and various types of caterpillars, aphids, spider mites, and slugs or snails. If you spot insects eating your greens, you’ll need to act quickly to prevent an infestation.
Diatomaceous earth is a great way to deter and kill many common garden pests that are organic and safe. A regular dusting of DT between waterings can kill larvae and adult insects. You can also prevent slugs and snails with DT or copper rings. Be sure to put them around your plants. We also suggest that you use an organic insect killer made from 70% neem oil. It is an effective treatment for aphids and spider mites.
A row cover can help prevent moths from laying eggs that turn into caterpillars, but it is also effective at deterring birds from eating mustard greens. Many small birds will quickly destroy a garden of mustard greens. Select a row cover material that doesn’t block too much light.
There is a wide range of diseases that impacts mustard green crops.
The most common diseases include anthracnose, mildew, and leaf spot disease. Gardeners who spot the early signs, including spotting on the leaves, white, powdery growth in the forks of leaves, or wilting and yellowing leaves, will need to treat the matter immediately. You should take extra care every time you treat a plant with diseases to prevent it from spreading to other plants.
In most cases, early detection of disease can be remedied by removing the plant’s infected part. If the infection continues to spread, the plant should be removed and destroyed. Don’t compost plants with diseases because the bacteria or fungus can live in the soil and spread throughout your garden.
How to Use Gai Choy Leaves
Thousands of recipes use Gai Choy leaves. Traditional culinary preparations cook the young and tender leaves, but the delightful flavor and aroma are a welcome addition to garden salads when eaten raw. Be sure to select very young leaves or shoots for salads because they are tender.
Your family will love eating fresh mustard greens sauteed in butter and garlic as a side dish to flavorful meats like pork loin or roast beef. Mustard greens make an excellent addition to any recipe that calls for collard greens or spinach greens.
You can also juice the tender young leaves as part of a healthy vegetable juice smoothie.
What Does Gai Choy Taste Like?
Chinese mustard greens have a sharp, pungent aroma with a significant spiciness. The flavors are stronger when the green is raw and mellow as it cooks. Mustard greens are as tender as spinach but have a more pronounced flavor.
Can You Eat Mustard Seeds?
Gai Choy seeds are edible. You’ll most often use them whole to flavor soups or ground into a powder. Mixing ground mustard seed powder with water and a small amount of vinegar will give you homemade mustard! One of the best things about growing mustard greens at home is harvesting seeds, which are expensive in the store.
What takes the bitterness out of Gai Choy?
Blanching Gai Choy in boiling water with a pinch of salt can remove the bitterness.
Is Gai Choy more tender than Collard greens?
Gai Choy is generally more tender than Collard greens when cooked properly.
Can Gai Choy be overcooked?
Yes, Gai Choy can become overcooked and mushy if boiled for too long.
- Gai Choy is the name for Chinese mustard greens, known by many names throughout the world.
- Chinese mustard greens are fast-growing Spring and fall vegetables.
- Gardeners can turn aged manure into garden soil in the fall before planting to create an ideal growth bed.
- Mustard plants are frost-hardy and can be direct planted two weeks before the last frost or started indoors.
- Gai Choy matures in as little as eight weeks, with leaves ready to eat in as little as three weeks.
- Chinese mustard greens can be eaten raw but are usually sauteed. Seeds are edible and used to make the condiment known as mustard.
One of the best things about growing Chinese mustard greens in your garden is how quickly the plants grow.
They are often the first to sprout, and you can keep them going for two months or longer each time you start seeds. Fresh mustard greens are a delicious addition to your meals.
Growing mustard greens at home is a great way to provide natural and healthy food for your family.