Tatsoi is a variety of the brassica Rapa plant, others in this plant group include bok choy, choy sum, napa cabbage, turnips, rapini, yellow sarson, komatsuna, and field mustard. The name ‘tatsoi’ comes from Mandarin (塌棵菜 tā kē c). Other names include Chinese flat cabbage, rosette pak choi, broadbeaked mustard, spoon mustard, and spinach mustard.
Grown for their dark green, spoon-shaped, leaves. They have a soft creamy texture similar to spinach. They are very popular crops across North America and are often found in packages of mixed salad.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Brassicales
- Family: Brassicaceae
- Genus: brassica
- Species: B. Rapa
- Subspecies: B. r. Narinosa
- Binomial name: Brassica rapa subsp. narinosa
- Tatsoi is one of the best natural sources of vitamin C available. Trumping all other leaf greens such as kale, and many citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.
- Tatsoi is available year-round.
- You likely won’t find tatsoi at your regular grocery store. Try health food markets, specialty grocery stores or Asian supermarkets.
- Bolting: A term applied to vegetable crops when they prematurely run to seed. A cold spell or changes in day length initiates this behavior.
- Cultivation: The act of caring for or raising plants.
- Umami: One of the five categories of taste, besides sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Vegetables of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae) with many genera, species, and cultivars being raised for food production such as cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and similar green leafy vegetables.
- Age-related macular degeneration: The leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates.
Tatsoi Buying Guide
When buying tatsoi, look for thick, dark green and glossy leaves. There should be no wilting or yellowing of any kind. Preferably a bunch that hasn’t bolted yet.
Tatsoi Production & Farming in Texas
Tatsoi prefers cooler temperatures. It can withstand temperatures of 15°F and can even be cultivated under snow. Naturally, this means that production anywhere in the south is scarce.
To grow successfully tatsoi need at least 1 inch of water in well-drained and fertilized soil. Plant 10-15 inches apart barely covering with soil. A 2-3 inch layer of hardwood mulch will help retain water.
Plant 2-3 weeks before the final expected frost. Tatsoi should be ready to harvest early at 3 weeks or fully matured at 7 weeks. The ideal time is 21-30 days for baby salad leaves, and 45-50 days for cooking leaves.
Bacteria and disease is a huge factor to take into account when growing tatsoi. Make sure you have clean, disease-free soil before planting any vegetable.
Pests like flea beetles, cabbage worms and cabbage loopers can be an issue year-round. A very effective and easy, environmentally friendly to keep your garden bug free is to use a garden cover. A garden fleece or a row cover. Slugs can be a massive issue when it comes to leafy green as well, so consider a raised bed.
A good homemade all-in-one pesticide recipe is as follows:
Puree 1 bulb of garlic and 1 small onion, add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder and let steep for an hour. Strain the mixture and add 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and mix well. To apply, dilute in water and spray it full-strength onto both the upper surface of the leaves, as well as the undersides, and store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to a week if desired.
Almost all commercial tatsoi is produced in China, where the plant is native. Many private US farms grow and harvest it to sell in farmers’ markets and to commercially to some extent.
Harvesting and Packaging:
Almost all US tatsoi in incorporated into mixed salads. You would mostly find it fresh, on its own in farmers’ markets across some parts of the US or whenever it’s in season. It is harvested by hand commercially 3-7 weeks after planting. It is then washed and stored in a cooler until consumers or further processors make an order.
Tatsoi’s culinary roots begin mainly in China and Japan. With a similar background and use as bok choy in dishes like stir-fries. Because of its soft and creamy texture, soup from the green became popular. Salads, sandwiches and other cold dishes also openly adopted the ingredient
Tatsoi does not hold very long so be sure to buy 1-3 days in advance to when you use it to get the most out of nutrition and flavor. To store wrap in a damp towel then seal in a plastic bag. Place in the fridge and it will last 3-5 days.
Freezing is also an option. Blanch the leaves lightly for 2 minutes, submerge them in very cold water, drain then freeze. The frozen tatsoi will hold for around one year.
Youll get the most out of your tatsoi by either steaming, sautéing, stir-frying, and of course, for maximum nutrition, eating raw in salads or sandwiches. It works as a great substitute for any leafy greens. When cooked you will taste a sweet, nutty and earthy flavor similar to spinach. Its tangy and peppery notes pair exceptionally well with citrus and other crisp, cool ingredients, like apple, fennel, and mint.
You can’t go wrong pairing tatsoi with umami foods. Foods like scallops, mushrooms, seaweed, sesame, and braised meats. Fermented foods such as fish sauce, soy sauce, and vinegar are also complimentary matches.
Washing tatsoi under cold water is always recommended.
Although we typically associate carotenoids with carrots and other orange vegetables, most leafy green veggies contain sufficient amounts of it. Vitamin A, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iron are also sufficiently present.
Vitamin C: Tatsoi is one of the best natural sources of vitamin c you can get. One ounce contains more than double that of an orange or lemon. It even surpasses kale and any other Brassica vegetables and salad greens. Along with anti-histamine properties, vitamin C is responsible for healthy teeth, bones, and skin, and also keeping your immune system in check.
Carotenoids: One serving of tatsoi makes up for over 55% of your daily recommended vitamin A intake. A study published in the November 1994 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the study participants in the highest quintile of carotenoid intake had a 43% lower risk for age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the UK and US.
Calcium: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body, 5 ounces of tatsoi provides you with over 1/3 of your recommended daily intake. Calcium is best known for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. That’s just the surface though. Calcium is key in other vital body functions such as the transmission of messages through the nervous system, blood clotting, and regulation of heart rhythm.
Reduced cancer risk: Little is known about the effects cruciferous vegetables have on cancer. Although links have been found to suggest they aid the fight against certain cancers like cancer of the lung, colon, breast, prostate, and bladder.