Because most Asian vegetables and herbs dislike extremes, autumn’s one of the best seasons for growing them. They all appreciate good growing conditions, which means pre-preparing the soil by digging in some organic matter (aged manure or compost) and mixing in organic-based fertiliser such as Dynamic Lifter. Give this concoction a couple of weeks to settle in before planting seedlings or sowing seeds. Keep the plants growing rapidly by regular fertilising. Yates Thrive Naturals Vegie & Herb Natural Fish Blood & Bone is an organic fertiliser that supplies nutrients and, at the same time, encourages healthy soil and strong roots.
Yates seed range includes an exciting collection of easy-to-grow varieties. There are the Chinese cabbages, Wombok and the white-stemmed Buk Choy (pictured), sweet Chinese broccoli, snow and sugar peas, coriander, spring onions and the most versatile of all, Japanese turnips. Yates Japanese Turnip Hakurei is a fascinating vegetable that bears little resemblance to traditional European turnips. Fionna Hill, a New Zealand garden writer who is best known for her book ‘How to Grow Microgreens, nature’s own superfood’, has fallen in love with this unusual vegetable. Here’s what Fionna has to say about it:
“I’ve discovered a great new vegie … Yates Hakurei – aka JapaneseTurnip. It’s also known as kabu, the salad turnip or Tokyo turnip. I’m a kiwi South Islander and turnips to me mean Swedes that have had Southland frosts and are as big as my head. They’re lovely mashed with lashings of butter and pepper but don’t compare with Hakurei. Hakurei are little round, plump numbers with bright white skins and flesh like freshly-laundered white linen sheets in a soap powder ad.
I planted seeds last year and ate the first crop eight weeks later. They’re even faster growing than radishes. I couldn’t wait and picked them smaller than I probably should have – they looked like a boutique-designed vegie that one might buy on a Donald Trump budget.
The flavour is sweetish, and fresh-tasting with no earthiness or bitterness. Flesh is crisp but softer than a regular turnip and not woody or tough; they’re excellent in soups, salads and Asian cooking and seem sweeter when cooked. Plant lots and pick them young: even smaller than the recommended 5cm across.
At first I lightly boiled them and ate them with a dob of butter. Then I discovered that you can eat them raw and also that the leaves are edible. I’ve seen US chefs cook them whole with the stalks and leaves on. I’ve cut the stalks short to eat, too – just a little green cluster at the top, as I’ve seen in high end restaurant dishes. For a simple salad, wash and finely slice a few (no need to peel) and add slices of apple and some blanched almonds; dress with a vinaigrette.