In Season: Bok choy like two greens in one

Although I am a lover of all things vegetable, I have to admit that I’ve been lukewarm about bok choy. A couple of mediocre recipes combined with some grit hiding in some bunches from the grocery store had turned me off. But after a few more tries, I’m warming up to this easygoing, attractive veggie.

The key to my conversion is a new mind-set. Instead of feeling put out by — depending on my mood — either its too-crunchy stems or its too-floppy leaves, I’ve decided to think of bok choy as two vegetables in one. Its light stems are crisp and cabbagey ... but not too cabbagey. Its dark green leaves are colorful and collardy ... but not too collardy. Both parts of the veggie do well in salads and stir-fries. They just have a different texture.

It’s no surprise that bok choy, also known as pak choi and sometimes called Chinese cabbage, tastes similar to cabbage and collards. All three are all in the Brassica genus of plants, along with turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts and mustards. Bok choy is probably the most mildly flavored of all these cool-weather plants. So I find it is best when paired with a zesty dressing, an aromatic such as garlic or ginger, or a little hot sauce — or all three.

Nutritionally speaking, bok choy packs a wallop. One cup of chopped raw bok choy/pak choi provides about half the recommended daily intake of vitamins C and A, all for just 9 calories. It’s also considered a very good source of vitamin K and B6, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese.

It seems worth giving a try, doesn’t it? From now on, though, I wash my bok choy really, really well. Sand and grit in no way enhance the experience.

At local farmers markets

Apples, beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collards, endive, escarole, fennel, frisee, herbs, kale, leeks, lettuce, mixed greens, mustard greens, parsnips, peppers, radicchio, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, sunchokes, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, tatsoi, turnip greens, turnips, winter squash

From farther afield

Looking good: apples, Chilean apricots, Caribbean asparagus, Chilean avocados, Caribbean and Mexican beans, Texas and Mexican beets, California and Arizona broccoli, Chilean blueberries, Arizona and Mexican broccoli, Mexican brussels sprouts, Texas and California cabbage, California carrots, Arizona and California cauliflower, Chilean cherries, Mexican and Honduran cucumbers, Mexican eggplant, Texas grapefruit, Chilean and Peruvian grapes, Carolina and Texas greens, Caribbean honeydews, California and Italian kiwifruit, California lettuce, Chilean nectarines, Arizona and Texas oranges, Chilean peaches, Washington pears, Mexican peppers, Chilean plums and raspberries, Mexican radishes, Florida strawberries, Mexican tomatoes, Caribbean watermelon

Coming in: California avocados

Variable quality: Many Florida crops, including beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, radishes and tomatoes, have been damaged or delayed by cold weather. California artichokes; Mexican blackberries; Caribbean cantaloupes; Mexican carrots, corn and honeydews; Arizona lettuce; Mexican limes; Caribbean peas; Mexican and California raspberries and strawberries; Mexican watermelon

Local reports and the Packer


Bok Choy and Tofu With Cashew-Mint Sauce

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 25 minutes Serves: 4

The sauce for this delicious stir-fry comes from an old New York Times recipe. It’s what makes the dish, but it’s not especially pretty — so I prefer to toss it with the rice rather than the vegetables.

Note: You can make the rice and the sauce ahead of time. Allow the sauce to come to room temperature while you cook the bok choy; reheat the rice in the microwave and toss with the sauce before serving.

1/2 cup roasted cashews

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

A few dashes Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup peanut oil

1 pound tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound bok choy, well-washed, dried and coarsely chopped

1 small bunch green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cups cooked brown rice (made from 1 cup uncooked)

For the sauce: In a food processor or blender, combine the cashews, sugar, mint, basil, ginger, vinegar, water, soy sauce and Tabasco sauce, and puree.

In a wok or large sauté pan over high heat, heat the oil until very hot. Add the tofu. Allow to cook without disturbing for 2 minutes, and then use a spatula to turn the cubes. Cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning every few minutes, until the cubes are lightly browned on a few sides. Push the tofu to one side of the pan; add the bok choy (stems first) and green onions and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until the vegetables are bright green. Stir in tofu and remove from the heat.

To serve, combine the sauce with the rice and top with the tofu mixture.

Per serving: 489 calories (percent of calories from fat, 48), 17 grams protein, 49 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 27 grams fat (5 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 1,119 milligrams sodium.