Written by Nicole Shimizu, Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Part of Each Green Corner’s mission focuses on bringing culturally diverse produce to our local communities. One delicious vegetable you should consider introducing into your backyard garden is gai lan! Gai lan, otherwise known as Chinese broccoli, has two distinct flavor profiles: long green stalks with a sweet taste and dark, glossy leaves with a bitter, more earthy taste.
If you’re interested in growing this vegetable for yourself, it’s easy to do! All it requires is an open and sunny environment with regular watering. As for when to start introducing it into your garden, it’s a winter vegetable, so we recommend that you sow the seeds directly into the soil between April and September. There are two main varieties of gai lan to choose from: one with white flowers and one with yellow flowers. The one with white flowers is more common and it can grow up to 19 inches tall while the more rare yellow flower variety grows up to 8 inches tall. Regardless of the height, they taste the same and are both chock full with vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium!
A simple way to prepare gai lan is a variation of the two ingredient vegetable dish often served in Cantonese restaurants and households. Simply wash a bundle of gai lan, cut 1 inch off of the bottom of the stems as the bottom portion can be tough to chew and digest, cut the stems and leaves into 1 to 1.5 inch segments, and boil for 6-7 minutes until the stems can be easily poked through with a fork. Then drain the gai lan and rinse with cold water. In a bowl, lightly coat the gai lan with 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce, adjusting the amount of sauce to taste. This is a super simple way to enjoy the texture and flavor of gai lan paired with the umami of oyster sauce.
You can also enjoy gai lan simply blanched and added whole to noodle soups, bowls of ramen, or stir fried and tossed with salt and oil, ginger, or garlic. Gai lan is a simple and versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
For additional information on how to cook gai lan with pictures and further instructions, feel free to check out some of the links below:
Gai Lan Stir Fry with Garlic Sauce