Sunday, February 28, 2016

Vegetable Zen

Whenever I come across a vegetable for my garden that grows well on its own and is not attacked by a myriad of pests, I am delighted. One that I have been growing for a couple of years now and fits this category is called Zen. 

It is a hybrid in the genus Brassica (Mustard).  Scientifically it is Brassica rapa x brassica oleracea capitata, a hybrid cross between cabbage and Oriental mustard spinach (Komatsuna). The species Brassica oleracea includes vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Brassica rapa includes turnups, napa cabbage, mizuna, bok choi and tatsoi.

This new fast growing, mildly sweet green can be picked and enjoyed 30 days from sowing. Zen resembles collard greens, but the leaves are larger and more tender, much like lettuce but with a rich, savory taste. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and C and is resistant to bolting in the summer heat. Early to harvest, zen is dependable for picking all year long in suitable climates.

The leaves can be used at any stage: young leaves in salads, and large leaves used in soups, stir fry, and pickling, or simply steamed or boiled. Plants produce oblong-shaped dark green leaves with thick main stems and many side shoots.  
The Oriental green, zen hybrid grows as an annual but will live more than one year. The plants thrive in full sun and require water often. No wonder they grow well in tropical areas. Zen tends to grow best in a soil pH between 5.4 and 7.7.

Photo: Zen hybrid from Burpee