Chinese cabbage is a member of the cabbage family, just as you would expect. It is lush and crisp, with leaves that could perhaps be described as a mix between savoy cabbage and iceberg lettuce. It’s also known as Chinese leaves, a name you may have come across at your local greengrocer’s counter.
Chinese cabbage can be sown directly at the growing site but is also ideal for indoor cultivation. It grows quickly and can often be harvested about two months after sowing. Chinese cabbage prefers nutrient-rich, sandy, and well-drained soil. It’s best if the soil it’s growing in is evenly moist, so water it if it starts to get too dry.
Like other cabbage plants, there are plenty of insects that like to nibble on the leaves. You can always protect your plants with fine mesh netting or fibre cloth.
There are rarely any problems in germinating seeds for Chinese cabbage, however, this type of cabbage flowers quite easily. It is mainly heat and too much daylight (short nights) that can make the plant run wild. The resulting cabbage is by no means inedible, but there is less to eat and the cabbage does not form a head.
July is a good month to sow Chinese cabbage, as the nights are getting longer, which suits this cabbage perfectly. Chinese cabbage is not particularly sensitive to frost, and the plants can remain outside long into the autumn.
Chinese cabbage is the main ingredient in kimchi – a traditional Korean fermented dish. Kimchi is really tasty, but Chinese cabbage has far more uses than that. With its crispy texture, it is delicious eaten raw. For example, you can shred it and use it in a pizza salad or use the leaves as wraps. Chinese cabbage is also great cooked, for example in a stir-fry or even on the barbecue.