Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Green Lance: A Captivating Asian Vegetable

One of the delights of living in the Great Northeast is cuddling up in winter next to the fireplace with a hot mug of tea and a pile of seed catalogues. The kitchen gardener dreams of resplendently tangled beds of vegetables and herbs when the warmer weather rolls around again and it makes for many a pleasant reverie. One of the vegetables that caught my fancy this past catalogue season was the Green Lance, an Asian vegetable also known by many aliases, such as Gail Lohn, Pak Kah Nah, Chinese Kale or Chinese Broccoli.

I was captivated by the comic book name, the short growing season (50 days) and the description of its taste as being somewhere along the broccoli-asparagus spectrum. Yum yum. I got my seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds and planted them during the cooler Spring weather and am now harvesting my first crop of this tasty, hardy vegetable. I waited until I had a couple of flowering stalks and then cut the plant down to a long stub, as I will hopefully have a future crop of smaller side shoots in a few weeks.

The plant itself is very attractive with long spears and elegant little florettes on top. A couple of white blossoms opened, so I knew I better get out my knife and harvest a bouquet of Green Lance to cook up for dinner.

Somehow, I don't have any cookbooks with recipes for cooking up my beautiful Green Lances, so I just did a simply stir-fry, served over rice, for my inaugural experiment with this elegant vegetable. I am not clear as to whether one should just cook the stems and flower buds, and not the leaves too, but I went ahead and we munched on all three with equal relish. I did find some other Green Lance cooking ideas listed at this informative post from a Santa Barbara, CA restaurant, so look for some more recipes in the future from yours truly as I harvest and experiment later in the garden season.

Stir-Fried Green Lance with Black Beans

1 bunch Green Lance (5 fat stems with buds), chopped into 1 inch sections
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 tsp. fermented black beans, rinsed and drained and coarsely chopped

Heat oil in heavy pan. Add garlic slices and cook, stirring, one minute.

Add Green Lance and stir until stems are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add black beans and stir another 2 minutes. Even the fattest stems are tender after this cooking time, although later in the season, when the plant's skin is thicker, I may have to adjust the cooking time.

Serves 2.

I know I will be enjoying this tasty veggie many more times and will definitely grow it again in the Crispy Garden. It was very easy to grow, and despite a little damage from cutworms and flea beetles, there were so many seedlings in the row I planted that we will have a more than abundant crop, particularly if the side shoots start popping out in the hotter summer weather.

This post will be shared at the always fun, always informative blog event Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Erbe in Cucina. This bilingual blog hails from Italy, and is a great resource for gardening and culinary information about a rainbow of herbs. Weekend Herb Blogging is the brainchild of Kalyn's Kitchen and is now headquartered at the Australian food blog, Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once.


Gluten free Kay said...

Looks a lot like my broccoli raab, only mine has yellow blossoms. Mine is already bolting because we've had some (maybe three) hot days. Today was totally rain-free and partly sunny. That's a real departure for me this month. We're setting rain records.

Graziana said...

A vegetable with a superhero name?I think I fell in love...
Thank you for sharing this with WHB!

Arlene Delloro said...

Between you and Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, I'm getting a whole education in vegetables. Do you grow ramps? I'm in love with that name.

Rachel said...

Kay: This is a lot like a broccoli raab plant, I hadn't noticed that before, so I'll bet it would be great sauteed and served over some pasta with lots of Romano.

Graziana: Yes, a superhero name is a great asset to any vegetable1

Arlene: Deb is a great one for introducing unusual fruits and veggies on her blog. I believe Sea Asparagus was her latest find at the farmers market. I don't grow ramps, but am trying some domestic garlic for the first time in the Crispy Garden and it's doing well. Just grabbed up my first garlic scapes for salads.

Alicia Foodycat said...

I had no idea gai laan was known as green lance - that is a fantastic name! I usually just have it steamed with a bit of oyster sauce.

Amy Green said...

I am so impressed that you are able to cultivate such unusual veggies in your garden. This is our first year with a very small garden and so far the rabbits and birds have eaten everything. I haven't met a green veggie I haven't so sure it's delicious.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Love that name! here we usually see it as Chinese Kale (so boring compared to "The Green Lance"!)