What’s Fresh in March? Enjoy Bok Choy
Enhance your meals in March with this mysterious and underrated cabbage.
Story By Bailey Gilliam
Many of us have heard of bok choy, but not as many have bothered to cook with it. The name sounds foreign, and its size can be intimidating. You’ve probably seen it in the grocery store; its elongated leafy stalks radiate out from a bulbous central stem, similar to a bunch of celery in shape and length, but the diameter is much wider. The leaves are dark green, sometimes ruffly and sometimes flat, and the stems are white or light green, depending on the variety. And then, of course, there’s baby bok choy. Along with being crunchy and delicious, bok choy is full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that make it a beneficial addition to your diet.
What is it?
Bok choy, also known as pak choy or pok choi, is a leafy green member of the diverse Chinese cabbage group. The flavor profile is mild, versatile and fairly neutral, with a relatively sweet, slightly bitter and mustard-like flavor. It has the fabulously crisp texture one expects from a member of the cabbage family, with a fresh, grassy flavor that increases in nuttiness as you cook it. Raw stalks are crisp, somewhat like celery, while the leaves have a texture like spinach. When cooked, the stalks become soft and somewhat creamy while the leaves soften only slightly. Bok choy is mild and versatile enough to use with various dishes and flavors. Bold Asian sauces and flavors such as soy sauce, ginger and garlic are commonly used with this green.
Baby got bok
Sometimes bok choy is harvested when it’s immature and sold as baby bok choy. Baby bok choy can range from 3 to 6 inches in length. It tends to be a bit sweeter and can be chopped like larger bok choy, separated into leaves or cooked whole. Baby bok choy is perfect for soups and salads. Bok choy, on the other hand, is much heartier and perfect for longer cooking times.
Bok choy is high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates. As such, it is an excellent option when trying to eat more healthy, low-calorie foods. And since it is considered both a cruciferous vegetable and a leafy green vegetable, dare we say it has twice the health benefits? Bok choy lacks the oxalate found in many other green veggies (like spinach), making it more friendly to individuals with kidney stones, arthritis and other disorders. One case study suggests that eating bok choy raw in substantial amounts may interfere with thyroid function, but this is not a concern with typical serving sizes. You should watch your intake if you take blood-thinning medication.
Bok choy is a reasonably fast-growing vegetable usually planted from seeds, either directly into the garden immediately after the danger of frost has passed or indoors about four weeks before the last frost. Choose a planting site with well-draining, rich, fertile soil where rain can saturate the ground and a spot with at least six hours of sunlight each day. The best rule of thumb is to give bok choy an inch of water every week so the soil remains moist between waterings. Bok choy should be ready to harvest between 45 to 60 days after seed germination. Harvest leaves from the outer part of the plant to allow the inner leaves to continue growing. Once you’ve harvested what seems like all the leaves from your plants, slice them off an inch above the ground, and they should re-sprout. The re-sprouted plants will be smaller but still delicious. The young, tender seedlings culled out during thinning can be added to salads or stir-fried dishes.
How to prep
The entire plant is edible; other than separating the stalks and rinsing them, there is little prep work involved. Like all leafy vegetables, bok choy should be prepared and eaten as soon as possible after purchasing, at its most fresh and crisp. You can store bok choy in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic, for around three days. After that the leaves may wilt, and the stalks lose their crunch. If it was freshly harvested and bought at a farmers market, you can keep it for up to a week. For long-term storage, blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and then freeze.
You can consume all parts of the bok choy plant, including its white stems and green leaves, making it highly versatile in the kitchen. The quickest and most straightforward way to prepare bok choy is to stir-fry it in a hot skillet with a small amount of oil for 3 to 7 minutes. The leafy portions cook more quickly than the stems, so some people like to add the leafy parts of the stalks toward the end of cooking. Braising is another excellent way to prepare bok choy, either on its own, in a flavorful liquid or added to braised meat, as the long, slow, moist heat helps to tenderize the crunchy stalks. Roasting is another popular cooking method. You can roast either whole or chopped stalks or halve the entire bok choy and roast it that way. Bok choy also goes well in soups such as Vietnamese pho. And like other cabbages, bok choy can be enjoyed raw. It’s particularly delicious in salads and is excellent for making slaw. It goes with just about everything. Choy to the world!
10-minute garlic bok choy
Crisp, fresh and bursting with loads of unexpected flavor, this garlic bok choy recipe might become your new favorite side dish. Ready in just 10 minutes, enjoy this easy vegetarian dish with any entrée.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 large shallots, minced
2 pounds baby bok choy, halved or quartered
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)
 Add the oil to a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the entire surface of the pan. Add the garlic and shallots, stirring continuously for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.  Add the bok choy, soy sauce and sesame oil. Toss to coat and cover. Cook for 1-2 minutes, uncover and toss, and then cover and continue to cook until bok choy is cooked to desired doneness (approximately 3-5 minutes more).  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper or sesame seeds and serve immediately.
Ginger garlic noodle soup with bok choy
This soup is a nutritious, comforting and flu-fighting 20-minute recipe made with homemade vegetarian broth, noodles, mushrooms and baby bok choy. Easily make it your own by adding chicken, shrimp, spicy chilis or other veggies.
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped, green and white, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 whole star anise
2 tablespoons soy sauce
10 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces rice noodles
1 1/2 heads bok choy, roughly chopped
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Red pepper flakes, for garnish
 Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized stockpot over medium heat. Add the diced shallots and mix well. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the shallots turn translucent and start to soften. Stir often.  Add the white part of the green onions, minced garlic and ginger to the shallots and mix. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes or until garlic and ginger are fragrant.  Carefully pour the vegetable stock into the pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the star anise and soy sauce. Cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid from the pot, and carefully remove and discard each star anise from the soup. Add the sliced mushrooms, uncooked noodles and bok choy to the pot, and simmer for 5-8 minutes or until noodles and bok choy are tender. Season to taste.  Divide soup between bowls, and garnish with sesame seeds, the green parts of green onions and red pepper flakes.