Introducing Bok Choy: An Easy-to-Prepare, Low Calorie, Filling Vegetable
Have you ever felt guilty that we Americans have so many choices in our grocery stores? Even supermarkets that sell only food have anywhere from 15,000 to 60,000 different items on hand! When you compare that to the fact that almost half of what we eat comes from fast food or eating out, is it any wonder that we never make up our minds to choose new and different foods?
Well here is a challenge. From the fruit and vegetable section (containing all those great fruits and vegetables you tell yourself you need to eat more of) pick a food you’ve never eaten or prepared before and try it. Alternate between fruits and vegetables. Select your “new food” by booth location, or if you’re a bit of an obsessive nature, choose new foods in alphabetical order. Even if you’ve eaten an apple, have you tried different varieties like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Orange Pippin or Sweetango? You get the picture.
An often overlooked option at the beginning of the alphabet is the un-American-sounding bok choy or Chinese white cabbage. It usually falls somewhere between sprouts and greens. Also known as pak choi, this headless cabbage is more associated with Asian foods. However, it is packed with nutritional benefits, including vitamins (A, B complex, C, and K, which support bones and the brain), minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. Helps reduce bad cholesterol and is satiating. Best of all, you can eat a pound and consume less than 60 calories. The only negative impact is that, like other cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage), it can cause inflammation in the thyroid gland in those who are prone to goiters.
If bok choy isn’t available where you live, take heart in the fact that it’s easy to grow. Because you can plant the seeds before the last frost, it’s one of the first vegetables you can get from the garden. It only takes 45 to 50 days to grow to about a foot to eighteen inches tall. The smaller plants, which look like whiter, less compressed celery with large green leaves, are more tender. If purchased from a store, it should keep for a couple of days. However, it is best to use it right away to preserve the flavor. Trim the bottom, remove any discolored leaves, and wash before eating.
You can eat both the firm stems and the raw leaves. Try stuffing the stems with cream cheese or guacamole and serving it as an appetizer and see if anyone notices your attempt to sneak in a healthy snack. The stems can be cut and added to coleslaw, while the leaves can be used as lettuce in a salad or on sandwiches. Unlike celery, with bok choy you don’t have to deal with any “strings.”
There are many ways to season bok choy with garlic, ginger, onion, sweet peppers, red wine vinegar, and chili peppers. One of the best ways to prepare it is stir fry. Add protein by cooking it with beans, peanuts, chicken, or pork. Sesame seeds are also a nice addition. Bok choy adds moisture to fillings and texture to soups. Use it like you would use celery. It can also be steamed. If you need a low-calorie filling, or are missing a vegetable dish or salad, bok choy is a good choice to add not only more bulk, but also more nutrients.
Isn’t it time you got a little more adventurous and tried this vegetable (and other fruits and vegetables) from your fruit and vegetable stand? Who knows, you might learn to love it enough to include it in your garden next year.