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Tatsoi grows so rapidly that fully mature plants can be harvested in just 45 to 50 days!

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TatsoiTatsoiIf you’re a fan of pre-washed, pre-packaged mixed baby greens, chances are you have come across tatsoi, and in many stores you can also buy whole plants. This beautiful looking Asian green will certainly grab your attention with its thick, lustrous green leaves which are spoon-shaped and arranged in a beautiful rosette of regular, concentric circles, and once you have sampled its soft creamy texture and subtle yet distinctive mild mustard flavour, you will certainly be hooked on this little plant.

Tatsoi belongs to the cabbage family of Brassicas, and is native to China, where it's been cultivated for 1500 years, and is called “wu ta cai”, yet its culinary roots are in Japan, where it is called “tasai” and has been cultivated for so long, its considered an ancient green. Tatsoi has a much stronger flavour than its close relative bok choy, and many consider the flavour superior to bok choy. Needless to say, this marvellous little plant has become increasingly popular, and is now grown throughout the world.

Considering that, as with most Asian greens, tatsoi grows extremely quickly and easily, and is often treated as a ‘cut-and-come again’ leafy vegetable, allowing for multiple harvests on a single plant, you may even be tempted to grow your own from seed at home.

Health Benefits:

The dark green leaves of tatsoi are very high in calcium, beta carotene and Vitamins A, C, and K, and also contain potassium, phosphorous, and iron.

In the Kitchen:

Tatsoi is most versatile in the kitchen because its flavour is mild enough to take on all kinds of flavour personalities.  The plant can also be used at all stages of growth, from pinching out individual leaves from the seedlings as required, to whole rosettes, and even young flowering shoots. Tatsoi is most often eaten raw or lightly steamed, and if it is cooked, does not require a long cooking time, so add the shredded leaves or stems right at the end, this also helps retain their nutritional value. To store, wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

The young leaves are tender enough to eat raw in salads, and when mixed with other salad greens will not only enhance their appearance, but also add a unique flavour and a good nutritional punch. And, as with the other Asian greens, tatsoi tastes wonderful when lightly sautéed, and can also be tossed into soups and stews at the last minute. It’s perfect for stir-fries, and can even be added to pasta dishes. The white stalks are sweet and almost creamy, and very tender if steamed like asparagus. The bright yellow flowers of tatsoi have a peppery flavour and can be used to garnish salads and other dishes, so be adventurous when using tatsoi, it can even be made into an excellent pesto for garnishing soups, or simply spreading on crackers.

In the Garden:

If tatsoi grabbed your attention in the supermarket, imagine how effective it can look in the garden! It has great potential as a contrast plant for the flower bed or border, with its beautiful dark green rosette of leaves making a wonderful contrast against other small ground covers, herbs like curly parsley, or cool season flowering plants like violas, alyssum and primroses. It also grows easily in small pots, so even the tiniest of gardens can accommodate a few plants.

Companion Planting:

Tatsoi grows well with many other greens found in oriental salad mixtures, and many other vegetables like beetroot, carrot, lettuce, peas, and other greens like mustard, kale, mizuna and spinach. It is also a good companion plant for strawberries, and herbs like Marjoram.

Cultivation & Harvesting:

Tatsoi is a good intermediate to cool season crop and in areas with cooler summers can be sown almost all year round. It is hardy to frost, withstanding temperatures down to -26° Celsius, and can even be harvested from under the snow, in those areas that receive it! Although more heat resistant varieties are available tatsoi still grows best if sown in late summer to autumn, and is very easy to grow in the same way as ordinary cabbage.
 
For the best quality, all cabbages need to grow very quickly and are greedy feeders, so prepare your beds very well with lots of compost and some 2:3:2 fertilisers. Although they will adapt to most fertile garden soils, cabbages generally do best in soils with a pH of 6 to 7.

Seeds are quick, germinating within 4 to 8 days, and can be sown directly into garden beds where they will receive full sun. Sow clumps of seed 20 to 30cm apart and thin each clump of seedlings to only one strong seedling.  Water regularly, as you would your other veggies, and if your soil is well prepared and very fertile, no further feeding may be required, but if growth slows down, or you are growing them in pots, you may feed your plants every 4 weeks with a balanced fertiliser that is high in nitrogen. Mulch the soil with a layer of compost and pull the weeds out gently by hand, because the plants resent soil disturbance. For successive crops sow every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season.

Tatsoi grows so rapidly that fully mature plants can be harvested in just 45 to 50 days! It can also be harvested at almost any stage of its growth, with individual leaves being harvested as required, or the whole plant can be harvested when mature. Many baby leaf varieties also have the capacity to regrow rapidly for multiple cuttings.

The plant's maturity is signalled by flowering shoots arising from the foliage, and eventually the plant will sprout seeds, marking its life cycle's migration. If you allow a couple of plants to go to seed and collect them for next seasons planting, you will never have to purchase tatsoi seed again, making this one of the most economical crops to grow.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Tatsoi is generally disease free because it is grown during the cooler seasons when insect life is not that active. Nevertheless, the ground hugging leaves are extremely attractive to slugs, and insects also love its tender leaves. When the weather warms up in spring, cabbage worms, cabbage loppers and flea beetles can riddle the leaves with holes.  To avoid this, protect with row covers, or use appropriate organic insecticides.  Aphids and white flies are less of a problem, unless you experience a very warm spring.

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