I have a confession to make. When it comes to vegetable gardening, I have (until now, that is) been horribly Eurocentric. I have an Italian garden, a Greek garden, a French bed (sorrel, tarragon and that sort of thing) and the usual British staples such as leeks and turnips and beets. But when it comes to Asian vegetables, apart from an autumn sowing of daikon radish and a few Chinese cabbage and Bok choi, I haven't shown much enthusiasm. I'm quite sure it's because all those sprouting greens displayed in Asian markets look very similar to people like me who know little about them – and rather unappetising. Well, how wrong can you be!
My education into the world of "Asian" greens began last month when, after an unexpected bitterly cold snap, my longed-for lettuces and early spinach took a turn for the worse and we were forced to avert scurvy by picking the shoots springing from the going-to-seed kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage stumps. They looked a little tough for tossing into a salad so we got out the sandwich press and jammed them in there wholus-boulos to see what would happen. The result? Far too delicious to describe – somewhere between "the best new season asparagus and the most tender freshly picked broccoli" is as good as I can get. Utterly sweet, totally succulent, and with the most delicate flavour you could ever hope to encounter on a plate.
We quickly ran out of these delights but, with the weather still not improved and the lettuces still a long way of hearting, I just happened to be visiting a farming friend when I discovered another (vast) source of mock-Asian greens – her son's field of Chou Moellier! Yes, I do realise that "Chou" as it's called here in the south, is usually considered winter feed for cattle, but it also happens to be in the kale family, and I quickly recognised those scrumptious seeding heads for what they were – another delectable meal. Needless to say, I came home with a couple of buckets full, and the sandwich press was soon in action – yum!
Now, of course, I'm pouring over my King's Seeds catalogue and (dare I say it) putting in my second seed order for the season. This time I'm going in for the real McCoy – actual sprouting Asian greens such as Flowering Pak Choi and Broccoli tender stems, as well as look-alikes that include Flower Sprouts Kaleidoscope Mix, Cauli Greens, and Broccoli Raab Spring Rapini (and I'm secretly hoping my Misome goes to seed!). Until these are up and running, however, I'm heading back to my farming friend's field to beat the cattle to the Chow!