Chijimisai is a cross between two of the most delicious and hardy greens, komatsuna and tatsoi. The lightly savoyed leaves have a velvety texture and a lightly umami flavor. The best way to describe the plant is a remarkable spinach substitute.
If you like tatsoi, you will fall in love with chijimisai as well. These young plants taste like boy choy with a hint of mustard. They fall into the group of Asian greens. In the past few years, they are more and more popular. But you might have difficulty and challenges finding them in a standard supermarket.
If you want to try some chijimisai, go to the Asian grocery stores, or try growing them themselves. Yes, you can easily grow this Asian vegetable at home.
They are delicious, nutrient-dense, packed with iron and calcium, and contain about four times more vitamin A than an equal portion of carrots.
What is chijimisai?
As we said before, chijimisai is a cross between two of the most delicious and hardy greens, tatsoi and komatsuna. This innovative new Asian green is both heat and cold tolerant, making it easier to grow. It is suitable to grow year-round in most growing zones.
The rare places where you cannot grow chijimisai are the extreme seasons of some climates. This quick and easy-to-grow green is tasty and more versatile than most leafy greens. You can use it in stir-fries and soups, but also in a salad mix, lasagna, or as a pizza topping. It is best planted in cool spring and fall conditions.
Several years ago, Asian greens were limited to bok choy. Yet, with the increasing interest in Asian cuisine and Asian culture, people are including more and more leafy greens in their cooking. Asian greens flavors range from mild flavor to spicy.
When you add these flavored greens to your salad, you get a little zip. You can also try them in soups and sautes.
Now, let’s move on to the guide on how to grow chijimisai at home. You can easily grow some of these tasty Asian greens at home.
When to plant?
There are two periods you can plant these seeds. Once in spring and once in fall. But it is best to direct sow seeds in early spring, from April to early May. Think of the period as two weeks before your last frost.
Plant small patches of greens every two weeks until early summer. This will ensure the succession of harvests and successful harvest.
You can sow another crop in late summer if you want a fall harvest. Greens maturing during cool weather will be tender and mild flavored. Those that mature in heat can turn spicy and tough textured.
Where to plant?
There are many factors that play a role in a successful harvest. Time, location, how to plant, etc. We talked about when to plant the seeds of this Asian vegetable, now let’s talk about where to plant them.
These Asian greens grow best in well-drained soil. They do not need full sun. Because they fall into the quick maturing greens, they can grow with as little as 2-3 hours of direct sun per day.
It is best that you plant them in raised beds or containers.
How to prepare the soil?
The soil moisture will determine the success or failure of your Asian greens. The importance of soil moisture is something you must consider. Once you think the soil is ready, add in a layer of compost that is anywhere from one to three inches thick.
Evenly spread compost over the top of your bed or box, and work it into the top 6 inches of soil with a fork. This will give you an opportunity to break up any huge clods that might form.
How to plant them?
This is the third factor that can contribute to your successful harvest. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep and about 1 inch apart in rows or broadcast evenly over a raised bed.
Thin plants to 6 to 12 inches apart once they germinate if you want to grow them to full size. Keep the spacing closer for smaller greens.
Watering your greens
Once you plant your chijimisai you move on to the next part of the growing process, care, and maintenance. Give your greens a good watering right after planting.
Then, come back every few days with your hose or watering can and provide a deep soaking. Remember, Asian greens grow best on evenly moist and well-weeded soil.
Once your greens start getting bigger, usually after a few weeks, they will need less frequent and deeper watering. Depending on the soil type, it means two or four times per week.
Fertilize young seedlings once they germinate with fish emulsion to encourage growth. Remember to also protect the young leaves from flea beetles.
When to harvest?
Most Asian greens reach maturity between 40 and 70 days after transplanting. Make sure to read the seed packet or reach out to the seed company to see how long before your greens are ready. And if you are in doubt, you can always taste them.
Chijimisai is meant to be cut once and done. If you like baby Asian greens for salads, you can harvest them early, like 20 to 30 days after sowing seeds.
Chijimisai in the kitchen
We said before that chijimisai is a versatile plant. You can easily implement this new ingredient to your cooking. You can play around with it as much as you like.
For example, you can toss the smaller leaves (baby chijimisai) into a salad for a quick punch of vibrant flavor and color. If you want a reference, use chijimisai leaves the same way you would use spinach in a salad.
If you want, you can also use it in stir fry dishes. Toss some baby or mature leaves into the wok at the last minute before the meal is ready. Your taste buds will love it. It is a great last-minute addition to soups as well, giving them a boost of color, flavor, and nutrition.
You can use chijimisai leaves for a brown rice pilaf or quinoa salad. Another great pair is with eggs and avocado.
The best Asian way to prepare chijimisai is briefly sautéed in a little bit of olive oil, garlic, salt, onions, pepper, and a splash of lemon juice.
Talking about storage, just wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel. Then, place them in a plastic bag, and you can keep them in your fridge for between three and five days. Sounds good enough to you?