By: Amy Grant
Bok choy (Brassica rapa), variously known as pak choi, pak choy, or bok choi, is an extremely nutrient rich Asian green most commonly used in stir fries, but what is baby bok choy? Are bok choy and baby bok choy the same? Are there different ways to use bok choy vs. baby bok choy? Read on to find out about growing baby bok choy and other baby bok choy information.
A cool season vegetable, baby bok choy forms smaller heads than the taller bok choy varietals, about half the size of standard bok choy. Pretty much any variety of bok choy can be grown as baby bok choy but some types, like “Shanghai,” are bred specifically to be harvested at their diminutive height for maximum sweetness.
So yes, bok choy and baby bok choy are basically the same. The real difference is in the smaller leaves and even earlier harvest of these tender leaves. Because the leaves are small and tender, they have a sweeter flavor than that of full sized bok choy and can be used in place of other greens in salads. Standard sized bok choy tends to have more of a mustard twang to it too.
Both full sized and baby bok choy are low in calories, chock full of Vitamin A and C, and rich in antioxidants and fiber.
Both types of bok choy are rapid growers, with baby maturing in about 40 days and full sized bok choy in about 50. It grows best in the cool, shorter days of fall and the early spring.
Prepare a sunny area in the garden for planting in the early spring or fall. Work in an inch (2.5 cm.) of compost into the top 6 inches (15 cm.) of soil. Smooth out the soil with a garden rake.
Directly sow the seeds 2 inches (5 cm.) apart and ¼ inch (.6 cm.) deep. Water the seeds in well and keep the seeded area moist.
Seedlings should appear in about a week and should be thinned to between 4-6 inches (10-15 cm.) apart when they are a few inches (7.5 cm.) tall.
Fertilize the baby bok choy 3 weeks after sowing. Keep the planting area consistently moist and free of weeds.
Baby bok choy is ready to harvest when it is about 6 inches (15 cm.) in height. Cut the entire head off just above soil level for dwarf varieties or for full sized varieties, remove outer leaves and allow the rest of the plant to grow to maturity.
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To Store: Cooked bok choy keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 10 months, although the greens soften to a mushy texture over time.
This recipe contains a common allergen: peanut. Only serve to your child after this allergen has been safely introduced.
Bok choy tastes mildly sweet with just a hint of mustardy bitterness—a taste that becomes more pronounced as the plant matures and grows larger. Play up the sweet-tart flavor by serving bok choy with fellow vegetables like acorn squash, bell pepper, broccoli, butternut squash, carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans, parsnip, pumpkin, rutabaga, snap pea, snow pea, sweet potato, or turnip. Take advantage of the vitamin C within bok choy by serving the leafy greens alongside hearty meat and fish like arctic char, beef, bison, chicken, salmon, shrimp, or trout or iron-rich plants like chickpea, edamame, kidney bean, or lentils. Bok choy soaks up flavor and nutrients from the food in which it is cooked, so try cooking with different liquids or oils like coconut milk, mushroom stock, peanut oil, or sesame oil. Season the greens with bold aromatics like chives, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, ramps, and scallion, or Sichuan peppercorn. And add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or your favorite citrus to add brightness!
Kimberly Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
Sakina Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist