Chinese cabbage or Wombok (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis) is a wonderful cool season crop.
It is the perfect late summer/autumn crop as they prefer warmish temperatures of around 18- 20 to become established and grow. They will start to form a head as soon as the temperature drops to an average of 14- 16 degrees with final head formation occurring with a further drop in temperature (10-13).
Along the east coast, the ideal time for growing Chinese cabbage is mid to late autumn and harvesting in winter whereas in the here in the highlands I will plant a few seeds every week from mid-March through to early May. As they are a quick crop, maturing in 8-10 weeks, I will be harvesting from late May through to mid-July. Seedlings do not grow well in cold temperatures so once we start getting regular frost I stop putting them in.
As they are such quick growers I can harvest and use them long before my European cabbages are ready. I like to harvest them when the heads are firm but not hard like a European cabbage.
Chinese cabbage, being a brassica, are very good for you. They are a good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins A and C., they are also high in glucosinolates.
Womboks can be used in similar ways to traditional cabbage though I find that they have a slightly sweeter flavour and are somewhat milder than European cabbage. The outer leaves are softer and taster than those on traditional cabbage and the inner leaves are very tender and sweet.
So, whilst I use wombok in stir-fries and soups my favourite dish is eating it raw in an Asian style coleslaw. Its sweet flavour and crunchy texture is also ideal for shredding on to a sandwich or a wrap.
This year I have also started making the Korean pickle Kim Chi which is adding to my store cupboard nicely.
Chinese cabbage is such a great quick cool season crop to grow so why not pop some in this week and you will soon be introduced to the joys of this versatile vegetable.