September 16, 2010

by Kathy Klein, Victoria County Master Gardener Intern

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt

Bottom leaves have been removed from the base of this Joi Choi plant for eating purposes prior to its full maturity.
Within 45 days, the sprout grows into a beautiful, large plant showing its white petiole and green leaves.
Beautiful, easy-to-grow, hardy, bountiful, delicious, nutritious and versatile are adjectives that all apply to Joi Choi, a variety of Bok Choy. This early spring or fall vegetable is also called Pak Choi, pok choy and Chinese mustard. Look for the Joi Choi variety both in the seed catalog and at your favorite garden center. Joi Choi is truly a delight in the cool season garden - and if planted in the next couple of weeks, it should be ready for harvest in mid to late November, before the first frost in early December.


Rosettes of dark green leaves and contrasting white petioles make Joi Choi a plant that is attractive on its own for use in landscapes - as well as for vegetable production. A high contrast between white and green make the plant striking in appearance.


Joi Choi flourishes in many soils, including the slightly alkaline soils that some South Texas gardeners have. It favors the cool early spring garden or the fall season garden, and, in fact, Joi Choi can even withstand light frost.

Growing Joi Choi is easy enough for children to have successful results. And because it is so rewarding, Joi Choi is one of the plants selected for the children's Junior Master Gardener project sponsored by Texas AgriLife Extension - Bexar County Master Gardeners at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Among the plants proudly displayed in the children's garden, Bexar County Extension Agent David Rodriguez pointed out Joi Choi to last year's Master Gardener training class when Victoria County Extension Agent Joe Janak and class coordinator Donna Sahualla arranged for us to visit the Botanical Gardens on a field trip. Rodriguez explained that the Joi Choi plant can grow about as large as a football. Generally there is no need to wait for full maturity to start cutting outer leaves for eating.

If it is easy enough for children to grow it, then try it for yourself. Your local plant supplier or nursery will likely carry Joi Choi. If not, then grow the plant from mail order seeds. Follow the directions on the packet.


The mature plant is produced in about 45 days from the time the seed is planted; however, because the plant provides large leaves and produces them quickly and regularly, a gardener can start harvesting the outer leaves once they are large enough for culinary use.


Joi Choi is moist and tender, and has a mild mustard taste. For maximum sweetness use as soon after harvest as possible. "The fresher the better" is as true for Joi Choi as it is for most vegetables.

In an open-ended plastic container and wrapped in paper towels, Joi Choi can be refrigerated for up to one week. Joi Choi is a perfect vegetable to combine with a wide variety of sauces due to its mild taste.

This nutritious vegetable is low in calories and high in vitamins and calcium. A cup of Joi Choi has about 25 calories; it has no fat, cholesterol or sodium.

Joi Choi can be substituted for celery and cabbage and used in various food recipes. As a versatile addition to meals, the petiole (large white section of the choi leaf before it splits into smaller veins) of the plant can be used as a substitute for celery. The entire plant can be used as a cabbage substitute in recipes. Tender, young leaves are good in salads. Entire young plants, new leaves and entire mature plants are useful to make steamed vegetable side dishes. It is a staple in stir-fry cooking and an excellent addition to soups and stews. I have included a recipe of mine for a stir-fry with lots of ginger.


Add together its looks, its ease in growth, its ability to thrive in our cool spring and fall gardens with only the slightest care and its flavor in creative cooking uses, and Joi Choi is clearly a joy to grow and use.

What other vegetable is mature in 45 days and can be used in salads, soups, side dishes and stir-fry meals while providing a nutrition boost from the cabbage family?

Common names:
Joi Choi Bok Choy, Joi Choi Pak Choi, Joi Choi bok-choi, Joi Choi pok choy, Joi Choi Taisai, Joi Choi celery mustard, Joi Choi spoon cabbage, Chinese cabbage


Brassica (BRAS-ee-ka)
rapa var. chinensis
Joi Choi

Aggie Horticulture Chinese Cabbage

Aggie Horticulture Specialty Cabbage
A Joi Choi plant first set into the fall garden from a nursery is a small green sprout.

Harvest and prepare Joi Choi for stir-fry - Wash leaves in cool water; dry leaves. Cut white midrib away from the green part of the leaves and slice into 1/4-inch pieces. Roughly chop green leaf parts.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
Use 3 or 4 pieces of candied ginger, diced fine.
1/2 cup of carrots, ·finely julienned
1 small jalapeno, seeded, slivered (optional or to taste)
3 medium garlic cloves, sliced or use a garlic press (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger (use purchased fresh grated ginger from market or grate fresh)
Oil for stir fry
·3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sugar (to taste) or honey
1 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cayenne (optional)

In a wok or heavy skillet, heat oil, add onions and jalapeno and cook until golden; remove and set aside. Add white sliced Choi and carrot; cook until just tender. Add garlic, grated ginger, candied ginger and stir. Cook until aromatic about 1 minute and add the green parts of the Choi leaves. Add sugar, soy sauce and all spices, then the golden brown onion and jalapeno. Stir and cook until desired tenderness of vegetables is reached. Remove from heat and sprinkle with toasted almonds at serving time.

If you prefer, simply stir-fry Choi with garlic and oil - or steam Joi Choi and serve with oyster sauce from the Asian foods section of the supermarket or specialty store.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at