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Chinese Cabbage - Brassica pekinensis, Brassica chinensis

Chinese cabbage is indigenous to China, where it has been cultivated since the 500 A.D. Its name is quite misleading; Chinese cabbage is more closely related to turnips and swedes than any sort of cabbage.

Chinese cabbage (also known as celery cabbage and Wong Bok) is grown in Arkansas mostly in the fall. Its mild flavor is similar to that of celery (although Chinese cabbage is not related to celery), and its leaves are thinner and more delicate than those of cabbage. Unfortunately, many gardeners do not consider growing Chinese cabbage as a salad vegetable due to failure of spring sowing to form desirable heads.

Chinese cabbage describes several greens which differ considerably. Like cabbage, they are cool season crops and bolt or go to seed in long days of late spring and summer. They grow best as a fall or early winter crop in most areas of Arkansas. Cultural practices are the same as for regular cabbage although Chinese cabbage matures quicker and may be ready in as few as 60 to 65 days from seeding. Chinese cabbage is used fresh in salads or cooked like regular cabbage.


Varieties

- China Pride Hybrid - 64 days to maturity. Best for fall planting.

- Jade Pagoda Hybrid - 72 days to maturity. Best for fall planting. Widely adapted, high yields.

- Blues Hybrid - 65 days to maturity. Best for spring and early summer.


When to plant

For best development, it is important not to interrupt growth. Since Chinese cabbage seedlings are more sensitive to transplanting than cabbage seedlings, the plants are best started in individual containers (peat pellets, pots, etc.) for spring planting. Transplant two to three weeks before the east frost-free date and before the plants are too old (four to five weeks). Sowing seed directly in the garden may not allow enough time for the seedlings to grow before warm summer days stimulate seedstalk formation and the plant is useless.

Chinese cabbage develops best during cool weather and is an excellent vegetable for fall gardeners. Start seed in early to midsummer and transplant at the same time as late cabbage.


Spacing of plants and depth of planting

Space plants 12 inches apart for upright varieties such as Michili and 15 to 24 inches apart for the larger heading types. For fall planting, sow seed directly in the garden 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Keep the soil moist and thin or transplant with care. If possible, start seed in a protected place and transplant on a cloudy day. Use a starter fertilizer solution when planting.


Care

Maintain sufficient soil moisture to keep the plants growing vigorously. Sidedress with nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are half grown.

Chinese cabbage quickly goes to seed during warm summer days. Dry weather accelerates the process. For best results, choose early varieties, start plants in individual containers, and transplant after the hard frost in the spring. Late spring-seeded Chinese cabbage will also go to seed.


Harvesting

The Pakchoi type develops long, loose, dark green leaves.The Pe-tsai type forms moderately firm one- to three-pound heads. The blanched inner leaves resemble lettuce. They are crisp, delicate in flavor, and an excellent salad green.

Cut the entire plant at groundline when the heads are compact and firm. Harvest before the seedstalks form in early summer and before hard freezing temperatures in the fall.


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This page was last updated on November 16, 2002