Would you feel guilty that we Americans have so many options in our grocery stores? Even supermarkets that carry just food have between 15,000 and 60,000 different items on hand! When you compare this to the fact that almost half of what we eat comes from fast food or meals eaten away from home, is it any wonder we never get around to choosing new and different foods? From the produce section (which contains all those great fruits and vegetables you keeping telling yourself you will need to eat more of) pick a food you have never eaten or prepared before and give it a go. Alternate between fruits and vegetables. Select your”fresh food” by place on the stand or, when you’ve got a bit of an obsessive nature, select new foods alphabetically. Even if you have eaten an apple, have you tried different varieties like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Orange Pippin or Sweetango? You understand.
An often overlooked choice at the beginning of the alphabet is the un-American-sounding bok choy or Chinese white cabbage. It is generally nestled in somewhere among the cabbages and greens. Also called pak choi this non-head-forming cabbage is most associated with Asian foods. However, it’s packed with nutritional goodies, such as vitamins (A, B-complex, K and C, which helps bones and brains), minerals, dietary fiber and antioxidants. It will help reduce bad cholesterol and it is filling. On top of that, you can eat a pound of it and take in less than 60 calories. The only negative impact is that like other cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) it can cause swelling in the thyroid gland for people who are prone to goiters.
If bok choy is not available where you live, take heart in the fact that it is easy to grow. Because you can plant the seeds before the last frost, it is among the first veggies you can get from the garden. Smaller plants, which look just like whiter, less compressed celery with large green leaves, are more tender. If bought in a shop, it should keep for a few days. However, it is best to use it immediately to retain flavor.
You will eat both the firm stalks and the leaves raw. Try stuffing stalks with cream cheese or guacamole and serve it as an appetizer and see if anyone notices your attempt to sneak into a wholesome snack. Unlike celery, with bok choy you don’t have to deal with any”strings”
There are many ways to spice up bok choy using garlic, ginger, onion, sweet bell peppers, red wine vinegar and chilis. One of the best ways to prepare it is in a stir-fry. Add protein by cooking it with beans, peanuts, pork or poultry. Sesame seeds are also a nice addition. Bok choy adds warmth to stuffings and texture to soups. Use it much like you’d use celery. It can also be steamed. If you need a low-calorie filler, or you run short on a salad or vegetable dish, bok choy is a good choice to add not just more quantity, but more nutrients as well.
Isn’t it time you be a bit more adventuresome and try this veggie (and other fruits and vegetables) from your stand? Who knows, you might just learn how to love it enough to include it in your garden next year.