Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

Amy Cheng of Red Pocket Farm picks bok choy.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Dave Hames discovered tatsoi, an Asian salad green, on a trip to Hawaii a few years ago. Many of the vegetables at the farmer's markets he visited there were new to him. Southern Indiana, where he lives, doesn't offer a great variety of the foods of the world. But the taste of tatsoi inspired Hames: "I had one of those 'I can grow that' moments."

His garden now boasts several Asian greens, including mizuna, bok choy and komatsuna. All of them are easy and fast to grow, he says.

"That's one of the big appeals to me," says Hames, a blogger who has been gardening for more than three decades.

Story continues below advertisement

In Canada, Asian vegetables have become staples at garden centres and seed companies, thanks largely to demographics. With the number of Asian Canadians on the rise, markets are responding to suit their tastes. But the popularity of growing these veggies is hardly limited to those of Asian heritage. Gardeners of all kinds are being drawn to them thanks to the fact that many are quick and easy to grow and offer something more exotic that tomatoes and carrots.

To feed the demand, new farms that specialize in growing Asian vegetables are sprouting up, like Red Pocket Farm in Toronto.

"There's a very, very large Asian population in southwestern B.C., so obviously the things that we grow in the gardens change as the population changes," says Mark Macdonald, resident vegetable guru at West Coast Seeds, a seed company based in Delta, B.C.

And just as vegetables traditionally grown in Italy were once out of the ordinary and now for many people have become familiar, so too are Asian vegetables being embraced by a wide array of gardeners.

"Radicchio is not something so shocking any more. Arugula comes as no surprise. And now we're seeing the same thing with bok choy and some of the mustard greens," Macdonald says.

West Coast seeds no longer lists plants and seeds in its catalogue as "Asian vegetables," a change the company made about four years ago.

"It's like calling other things European vegetables," Macdonald says. "We try and group them more botanically now, because as a family of plants it's a more useful way for a gardener to look at it."

Story continues below advertisement

Doeman Chow, co-owner of Jade Gardens, a garden centre and greenhouse in Milton, Ont., has seen a similar demographic shift.

"With the influx of new immigrants – south Asian, Asian, West Indian – the market has grown exponentially," he says. There is now a large demand for things like bitter melon, callaloo, san choy and karela.

The appeal of such items also stems from the fact that gardeners like to try new things, and they often like to have bragging rights over their neighbours, Chow says.

"When they have a barbecue they can say, 'Look at this,' " he says.

Before you start boasting, however, think of temperature.

"There's a very clear distinction between the warm-season and the cool-season crops," Macdonald says.

Story continues below advertisement

Mustard greens and bok choy, for example, will go to seed when warm weather arrives.

"Don't bother growing them in the summer time," Macdonald says. But vegetables like gourds and melons from Chinese cultures will grow very well in the warm season, he adds.

And while some crops are more difficult to grow than others, there are many Asian greens that are easy to grow, Hames says.

"You can take a seed of mizuna and go from seed to plate in 60 days," he says of the pepper green, also known as Japanese mustard. "You can use them at the baby stage, you can use them at the mature stage. You can harvest a few leaves. You can harvest a whole plant. They're pretty versatile."

Growing Asian vegetables is a simple sell, Hames says. "The appeal of something new, something a little exotic, is always there. And if you throw in easy and quick, that doesn't hurt either," he says.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies