Gardeners' Dirt: Gardening from Asian inspiration
By Marcia Kauffman - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
March 7, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 6, 2013 at 9:07 p.m.
Chinese New Year for most people conjures pictures of a dragon leading the parade or children with firecrackers celebrating the occasion. For myself, my thoughts reflect back to the memories I have and the inspirations I gained in meeting with Chinese nationals.
Chinese culinary dishes
For example, I had the opportunity to host a Chinese teacher for a week. The Chinese teacher, Fang or Francis for her American name, prepared dishes she enjoyed such as celery cooked with eggs or Chinese dumplings filled with shredded celery, onion and shrimp.
Another time, a local chemical plant team (of which my husband was one) was teaching a process to 25 Chinese professionals. We were invited to a lavish feast to celebrate Chinese New Year. This feast included dishes such as raw octopus (not my favorite), Chinese green beans and mushrooms.
Since then, I have enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen, extending that challenge to the garden where I like to raise the foods I cook. Although I haven't grown the vegetables mentioned in this article, this topic led me to do research: one vegetable for the fall planting and one for the spring planting.
A fall Asian vegetable
The Chinese radish is a good crop for a small garden as it doesn't take much room to grow to maturity.
Chinese radish, Raphanus sativus, often called "lo pue" or "lor bark" is a cruciferous root crop. The roots as well as the tender, young leaves can be eaten. The vegetable may differ in shape and color such as cylindrical or spherical - or white to green - and grow to 2 to 4 inches in diameter.
This vegetable is a cool-season crop that should be planted three to six weeks before the first frost of the season. When preparing the ground for planting, create rows by spading the dirt to a depth of eight-12 inches. Then use 10-20-10 fertilizer over the prepared soil. Plant the seeds 1/2-inch deep with 1 inch between plantings. The gardener will need to water frequently to keep the soil moist but not wet.
After small plants appear within four to six days, thin the shoots to 2 inches apart. You will be able to harvest these radishes within four to five weeks.
The insect pests of this vegetable are the armyworms, beetles and root pests. The solution can be as simple as applying glyphosate to the winter weeds to create a stale seedbed a few weeks before planting so weeds won't grow, thus creating a bed for the insects.
How to eat Chinese radishes
Eat raw like a carrot
Julienne into strips for salads
Use in stir-fry dishes
A spring season Asian vegetable
Chinese beans, Vigna sesquipedalis, are often called yard-long beans.
This kind of Chinese bean is related to black-eyed peas which grow pods from 10 to 20 inches long. There are two kinds: red-seeded and black-seeded of which the black-seeded is preferred due to taste.
After the soil is warm in the spring, plant the seeds 1/2
Pick these pods in bunches of 10-12 pods per bunch. The vine may grow as tall as eight feet, so be sure to support them with a wire or string support.
The black bean aphids may prey on the tender plants. Whenever yellow spots appear on pods from these aphids, spray with dimethoate. Another pest is the red spider mite that can create a speckled, silvery appearance. Spray with dicofol to eliminate these critters.
How to eat Chinese green beans
Fix as an ordinary green bean
Stir-fry in olive oil and garlic
The weather is growing warmer, and my thoughts and shopping tend to go toward the garden. As one who loves gardening, I'm always looking for ways to challenge my knowledge for success. That desire along with the inspiration I received from my brief association on with those of Chinese culture has encouraged me to try to grow one of these vegetables. It just may be my next step on my gardening journey.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.