From watching anime to holding tea ceremonies to reading up on Buddhist philosophy, you could be an amateur of all things Asian. Perhaps your parents or grandparents come from an Eastern nation, and you grew up speaking Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Korean with your family. If Asian culture is a significant part of your interests or identity, you’re probably no stranger to the culinary delicacies that come from this part of the world, too.
Consider how often you buy certain vegetables at your local Asian market or grocery store. If you cook Asian food several times a month, you probably go through your supply pretty quickly. It only makes sense to have some of those Asian veggies on hand anytime you need them and be able to enjoy them fresh from the garden. These five Asian vegetables are easy to grow in a home garden!
Green onions, also known as scallions, are one of the most common ingredients in Asian cuisines. Like garlic, they tend to blend in subtly, but you would definitely notice something is missing without them present. Plus, they add a delightful pop of lush green to your pad thai, soup broth, and bibimbap. If your grandma never taught you how to grow green onions in your kitchen, it’s not too late to learn.
There are two ways to start growing green onions. On one hand, you can salvage the next bunch you buy at the store and submerge the cut bulbs in a jar of water. On the other hand, you can try growing them from seeds as well. In an outdoor garden, sow the seeds during late winter one inch deep and in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. They also grow well in a container on your balcony or kitchen window. Either way, just make sure to place them in an area with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight and give them an inch of water per week. If your soil is sandy or your climate is hot, you may need to water them twice a week.
Harvesting green onions is simply a matter of cutting off as many sprigs as you need for your cooking. Make sure they have grown at least 8 inches tall before cutting them back. The plant will continue growing and send up new leaves.
Bok choy is a popular type of Chinese cabbage with thick, crispy stems and wide, dark green leaves. Bok choy can be used as an ingredient in practically anything: dumplings, stir fry, spring rolls, salads, soups, or side dishes.
To grow bok choy, choose a space in your garden with full sunlight and good drainage. Sow the seeds in spring and late summer about 2 inches apart and 10 inches between rows. Thin the seedlings to 7 inches apart, and then harvest after 45 to 60 days. Harvest bok choy can mean cutting off outside leaves and allowing the inside leaves to continue growing or pulling up the entire plant. Harvest the plant early for sweet, crisp baby bok choy, or wait until it is fully grown for a rich, dark leafy green.
Similar to bok choy, napa cabbage is one of the most common vegetables in a wide variety of Asian dishes, including stir frys, salads, soups, and kimchi. Start your napa cabbage seeds indoors before the final frost of winter, then plant them outside or in containers in early spring. The seeds need to be at least 2 feet apart in an area with partial sun, but feel free to spread them out wider to allow them to grow even bigger. Napa cabbage also grows well in late summer for a fall harvest, or anytime your climate stays around 60-65°F. However, be aware that temperatures below 45°F will cause the plant to bolt. Harvest the heads after 70 to 90 days, and make sure you have plenty of refrigerator space for these oversized cabbages!
Similar to green onion, peppers may visually blend into a dish so well that they aren’t always apparent. However, their sweet, spicy, or smoky flavors create an authentic taste that would obviously be missing if left out.
There are dozens of different types of Asian peppers. Consider the type of Asian cuisine you cook the most. If Indian curries are your specialty, try growing ghost peppers or Kashmiri chilis. Are you learning your way through the different kinds of Thai noodles? Consider planting serranos or bird’s eye chilis. If Chinese stir frys are your favorite weeknight meal, get some tien tsin or Sichuan pepper seeds. For simple side dishes or homemade gochujang, try Japanese shishito peppers and Korean hong-gochu.
If you want to grow your own peppers at home, make sure to research the specific variety you chose. Each type of pepper may have differing growing requirements. In general, hot peppers require full sun (6 to 8 hours per day), consistent watering, and a warm climate of at least 75°F. However, many varieties can take up to 100 days to mature. Considering the amount of growing time and warmth they need, you may need to start the seeds indoors two weeks after the last frost.
An oblong white tuber used in salads, stir frys, soups and pickling, daikon radishes are a staple especially in Japan. This versatile peppery-flavored root vegetable is well-suited to climate zones 2 to 11, meaning it can be grown practically anywhere on the U.S. continent. They will grow well in partial or full sun, as long as their soil is well-draining and aerated. Although, the more sun they get, the bigger the root may be able to grow. Daikon radishes can survive cold temperatures but not frost, so plant your seeds in mid-spring for an early summer harvest. Sow the seeds 1 inch apart, then thin to 6 inches apart. Harvest the sprouts or leaves anytime for use in salads, and harvest the roots after 50 days.
When it comes to sushi, pho, or Korean side dishes with rice, you can never get enough! That’s why it’s so important to have as much Napa cabbage, green onion, and bok choy on hand as possible. With veggies picked straight from your home garden, your Asian-inspired recipes couldn’t possibly taste more delicious and authentic.