Growing bok choy in the Coastal Bend is as fun as it is delicious to eat. A smaller, sweeter and headless version of cabbage, bok choy has been cultivated in China for thousands of years. The leaves are crisp, tender and perfect for a sauté or stir fry. Giving bok choy a slight char on the grill tastes incredible and creates a stunning presentation on the plate.
A cool-weather vegetable, bok choy is best grown in winter in the Coastal Bend. Plant well-grown transplants or seeds in early January to harvest by mid to late February. Planting from seed allows a delicious harvest of thinned sprouts. While a freeze or heavy frost will kill bok choy, a light frost can make it even sweeter.
The term “baby” bok choy typically means harvesting the plant before it is fully mature, although some varieties are tiny even at maturity.
Quick to bolt in warm weather, an early spring will cause bok choy to suddenly shoot into a tall, weedy-looking plant. The plants will soon burst with many small, yellow blooms up and down the stems. While the leaves of bolted bok choy are too bitter to eat, the flowers are beautiful and delicious.
Best Varieties for the Coastal Bend:
From Transplants: Shop local nurseries for Bo Pak, Gourmet White Stem and similar varieties. Space them at eight to 12 inches. These transplants are ready to harvest within 30 to 50 days.
From Seed: Shop for heirloom seeds online from Rare Seeds for Baby Milk, Suzhou Baby, Shanghai Green, Chijimisai and Hedou Tiny. Space them at three inches, and they should be ready in 35 days.
Growing Up: Bok choy needs full sun and well-tilled, well-drained soil. Add two to three inches of compost to the bed and generous pastured poultry manure and homemade wood ash to fertilize. Space transplants eight to 12 inches and mulch heavily. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep at two to three inch spacing and thin to final spacing of eight to 12 inches. Delicious sprouts will get larger in successive thinnings. Water the bed often with the rain function on the hose until sprouting; then twice per week or as needed.
Harvesting: To harvest baby or immature bok choy, space transplants at six to eight inches. When the leav
es grow together (about four to six weeks), harvest by cutting with scissors at the base of the stalk, or space at 12 inches and harvest when mature. If planting by seed, simply overseed the bed and thin sprouts weekly to the desired final spacing. You can enjoy bok choy as sprouts that grow continually larger until the plants fully mature.
Fun Facts: Bok choy is a vitamin-packed superfood. It is high in beta-carotene, folate, selenium and vitamins C and E. It is also rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamin K, which are essential for healthy bone growth. If you want to get your vitamins through food, bok choy is a nutrient-dense and tasty way to boost your immune system. Best of all, a one-cup serving of bok choy delivers these vitamins for only nine calories.