Tatsoi: A Cool Green in the Garden

A great green to have in your fall and winter garden is tatsoi. A member of the brassica or cabbage family, tatsoi is a low growing plant with dark green, spoon-shaped leaves. It has a beautiful rosette shape that can span a foot across.

Tatsoi is a mild mustard plant that tastes sweeter after the first fall frost. It is easy to grow from seed but this Asian green does not like our warm summers so it is best to sow seeds at the end of summer. It will flourish in the cool, autumn temperatures and reach maturity in 6 weeks. You can harvest leaves before frost or wait until after frost for a sweeter taste. Although it withstands very cold temperatures, you can prolong the life by covering with a spun polyester row cover and harvest all winter long. My plants are in part shade in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. I do not fertilize, and we have received plenty of rain this year.

Treat tatsoi like cut and come again lettuce where you pick the outer leaves first so the inner core keeps producing more leaves. However, you can harvest the entire plant. Because of its low growing rosette shape, there is a good chance that soil is lodged between the leaves. It is important to wash the leaves thoroughly before you use them.

I use the leaves the way I use kale and spinach: raw in a green salad, chopped and added to a quiche or a bean stew, or chopped and added to chicken cooked in a skillet. Tatsoi also can be steamed or sautéed alone or with garlic. You could try adding leaves to a green smoothie — they have a lot of  vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium.

This plant is not commonly grown in this area so you may not find it in the local garden centers.  However, you should have no problem finding seed packets (here is a list of seed companies). Tatsoi is very easy to grow from seed, just like spinach or kale. If you would like to cook with tatsoi leaves first to see how they taste, you should be able to purchase the leaves in Asian supermarkets.

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