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Garden Lifestyle

How to Grow Pak Choi in a Container

Whether you call it pak choi or bok choi, this Chinese cabbage is an easy-to-grow addition to a container garden and very versatile in the kitchen.

  • Baby pak choi transplants can grow in a narrow, but deep container.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Garden-grown pak choi makes a good addition to stir fry recipes.
    Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton

A four-pack of pak choi (also called bok choy) transplants have turned out to be a delicious addition to my spring container garden. I purchased the plants in early April, planted them in a patio container, and started cooking with the tender leaves in just a few short weeks.

Pak choi is a type of Chinese cabbage that’s a must-have for the stir fry garden. Its crunchy white stalks and bright green leaves add a mild flavor and nice crunch to many Asian fusion recipes. The leaves can be used when stems are still small or the entire plant can be harvested when mature.

Baby varieties, like Baby Green Fortune, mature in about 45 days and grow to just 6 inches tall. These smaller varieties grow well in a container garden if planted before the weather gets too warm.

Direct seed into containers or transplant when the threat of frost has passed. If you’ve missed the window for spring planting, make a note to plant a crop in fall 4-6 weeks before the first frost. Plant in a container that has well-drained soil and keep soil moist. Plants may wilt if the soil is allowed to dry between waterings. 

For my pak choi container I used row cover to protect the leaves from sunburn and to keep away insects who like the tender leaves as much as I do. 

The pak choi stem and leaves are edible, but the stems take a bit longer to cook. Add the sliced stems early in the stir fry process and the leaves at the end. Mix together with your other favorite vegetables and a package of sliced, extra-firm tofu for a complete meal.

Stir Fry Sauce Recipe

Here’s a recipe for a simple stir fry sauce that makes about ½ cup. Mix the ingredients in a small bowl before preparing the vegetables. This allows time for the flavors to mingle.

¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 or more cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons sugar (add more or less to taste)

Add ¼ cup sauce half-way through cooking the vegetables. Add the remaining sauce a few minutes before the vegetables are ready to serve.

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