Chinese cabbage or Bok Choy

Bok choy is a non-heading cabbage. The Chinese have been cultivating the vegetable for more than 5,000 years. Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa, subspecies pekinensis and chinensis) is related to the Western cabbage, and is of the same species as the common turnip.

No matter how you spell it, bok choy’s mild flavor is a must for stir fries.


A Ming Dynasty herbalist studied the Chinese cabbage for its medicinal qualities around the 14th century. It was introduced to Korea, where it became the staple vegetable for making kimchi. In the early 20th century, it was taken to Japan by returning soldiers who had fought in China during the Russo-Japanese War. Bok choy was introduced to Europe in the 1800's, and is now readily available in supermarkets throughout North America.

Naming variations

The name bok choy is based on the Cantonese word for "white vegetable".

Other than the ambiguous term "Chinese cabbage," the most widely used name in North America for the chinensis variety is bok choy (from Cantonese, literally "white vegetable"; also spelled Pak choi, Bok choi, and Pak choy). In the UK, Australia, South Africa, and other Commonwealth Nations, the term Pak choi is used. Less commonly, the descriptive English names Chinese chard, Chinese mustard, celery mustard, and Spoon cabbage are also employed.

The Chinese commonly refer to bok choy as pak choi or "white vegetable." Another common name is white cabbage.

In China, several terms are commonly used for this vegetable: the majority of Chinese (about 500 million) speak Mandarin, and for them the term is yóu cài (literally "oil vegetable"), since most of the cooking oil in China is extracted from the seed of this plant; Shanghainese speakers (about 90 million in eastern China) use the term qīng cài (literally "blue-green vegetable").

Why to grow

Bok choy deserves a place in every fall garden for these reasons:

- It's fast. Depending on variety, you will wait only 40 days for a head of baby bok choy, or 50 days for a full size variety. Bok choy is especially suited to the shortening days of fall, and its broad leaves have a special talent for making use of dwindling natural light.

- It's nutritious. A one cup serving of cooked bok choy (about half of a baby bok choy) provides all the vitamin A you need in a day, and more than half of your daily quota of vitamin C.

- It's beautiful. Bok choy's thick leaf stems grow so quickly that they seldom suffer injuries, and they make a beautiful green-and-white vegetable on the plate. Red-leafed varieties look stunning in the garden and turn green when they are cooked.

Baby bok choy are dwarf varieties that mature to less than 10 inches ( 25 cm) tall.

When to grow

This Chinese vegetable is a cool weather vegetable. They do not do well during the heat of summer and, therefore, they do best in the spring and fall.

Like other members of the cabbage family, Bok Coy prefers cool, and even cold weather. They can be among the first plants in your garden each spring.

Some people say that bok choy may survive temperatures below 0°F (-18°C) in an unheated greenhouse. In any case, bok choy is an excellent low-light vegetable to grow through winter under protected conditions. It can also be grown under lights indoors in a container using the triple "L" concept ("Lettuce Lights up Living room").

How to Grow Bok Choy

Growing bok choy is done best in cool weather. You can get two crops a year, in the spring and in the fall. They only take 45-50 days to maturity.

Sow seeds and cover lightly with 1/4" of soil or potting mix.

Once your seedlings are 4 inches tall, you will want to thin your growing bok choy to 6-10 inches apart.


Partial shade can help prevent summer crops from bolting. Ensure your bok choy is not exposed to light for too long, which can lead to bolting. Receiving 16 hours of daily sunlight for a month may cause the plant to flower. Adding shade will also reduce the temperature, thus discouraging bolting. Allow the plant to have 6 to 12 hours of direct sunlight per day.

How to cook

The most classic bok choy cooking method is to stir fry trimmed stalks or halved heads with garlic and ginger.

Video: Baby Bok Choy is a Chinese leaf vegetable commonly used in Chinese cuisine. The vegetable is related to the Western cabbage and of the same species as the common turnip.


Chinese cabbage - Wikipedia
Bok Choy - Information and Recipes from
Proper Bok Choy Care – Growing Bok Choy
How to Grow Bok Choy | Guide to Growing Bok Choy
Growing Beautiful Bok Choy
How to Grow Bok Choy Without Bolting | Home Guides | SF Gate
Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides - Growing Guide
Growing Bok Choy in Containers from Gardenstead - YouTube

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