For many years I never knew that there was more than one kind of bok choy. Actually it was probably when I started gardening and buying seeds that I learned what an incredible variety of choys there is to choose from.
Choys are so easy to grow organically here in South Florida. I like to joke that it would probably grow on a pile of rocks, that’s how readily it thrives in varying conditions. If we have a spot in the garden that doesn’t seem sunny enough for most plants, or wet enough, or dry enough, or soil-nutritious-enough, sure enough – choy will prevail! And I can’t think of a time – ever – when it has been bothered by any diseases or pests.
Choys (in a multitude of varieties) are members of the brassica, i.e. cabbage family. Typically, our go-to sources for choy seeds are Evergreen Asian Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds (see our post on Fall Seeds). However, just to note, Grow Italian aka Seeds from Italy has started carrying choy seeds (“Cavolo Cinese – pac choy”) which we’re growing this year, as pictured here and above. This company is one of our favorites, as it provides incredibly generous seed amounts for a low price, with good germination rates.
Evergreen Seeds specializes in Asian plant varieties and it’s exciting to read the descriptions of their different choys to choose from. Even Napa or Chinese cabbage comes under the heading of choy; however, for simplicity we use the term “bok choy” to refer to all the smaller varieties. These would include long stem choy, short stem, dwarf choy and extra dwarf choy. There is pac choi, pak choy, bok choy, yu choy, me choy (just kidding!), and then there’s tat soi – which we love to grow and use in place of spinach! There are super dark green leafed varieties of choy as well as delicate light green leafed ones.
We use Johnny’s seeds for one variety of choy in particular. Thanks to Ginny Stibolt and Melissa Contreras, authors of Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida, we learned that there is one variety of choy that grows fairly well in the summer here, and that is joi choi. These seeds from Johnny’s germinate and grow well. It’s kind of amazing that any choy will grow here for at least part of our summer. While it grows more sparsely then, it’s still nice to have a green we can harvest during some of our hottest months.
When planting bok choy, we use the scatter seed method and put the seeds in fairly thickly, then barely cover them with soil. After that, other than watering, choy needs very little attention. It grows quickly so that generally a crop is ready in about six weeks – or for baby bok choy, we can begin harvesting sooner. It is a long-lasting crop if harvested judiciously over time. Choy grows well clustered together, and you can pull larger plants out as the plants thrive. You can also just pull larger leaves off of plants, leaving the core intact to grow larger over time. We typically plant a new crop every six to eight weeks (in a new area of the garden, of course) as we try to have a continuous harvest of this healthy and hardy vegetable. It is truly one of the easiest and most effort-efficient organic crops we grow.
Stay tuned – a simple and delicious bok choy recipe is coming soon!