A young garden grown from SPI seed by St. Barnabas Center near Cap Haitien, Haiti.
Of the more than 25 vegetable seed types offered by SPI to our partners, some are less common or unfamiliar to some programs and regions. One of SPI’s most important roles can be to share lessons learned (including both successes and failures) among our partner networks. In this spirit, we’ll try to highlight a vegetable type or variety in each partner newsletter. Today’s feature is chinese cabbage.
The photo above shows an impressive young garden grown from SPI seed by St. Barnabas Center which trains agronomy students near Cap Haitien, Haiti. Chinese cabbage of the pak choi type is the leafy green in the front of the photo. These plants may be only 2-3 weeks old. This is what our partners like most about chinese cabbage: it grows more quickly than almost any other vegetable into something healthy that tastes good cooked or raw! You can pick the largest outer leaves to eat and the plant will keep growing; when fully mature around 30-40 days, the stem of each pak choi leaf will be a thick, white, juicy rib. The leaves are softer and milder-tasting than collards, mustard greens, or kale.
Chinese cabbage is a member of the Brassica family of vegetables, all of which do prefer cooler temperatures and ample water. You can see a garden hose in this photo which shows that St. Barnabas Center has access to a well or cistern. But chinese cabbage is a little more heat-tolerant than some Brassicas and it is fast growing. So, even in a dry season it is possible to carry water to a small garden plot of chinese cabbage a few times a week and keep the plants happy. People short on water may then wish to pick and eat the leaves early so that the water-use burden on their homes is reduced. People wishing to sell chinese cabbage at market will want to let the plants grow to a larger size. The mature plants will stay fresher in transport and storage.
Yves Mary Etienne, a Haitian economist, pulls bok choy from the test plot and gives it to a woman from the community to sell at a local market.
Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service
At St. Barnabas, agronomy students, who come from rural families and may find it difficult to afford further education, are able to sell school garden harvests to contribute to their school fees. The photo above shows mature pak choi picked from the same garden, from an article provided by Episcopal News Service.
SPI aims to always have a chinese cabbage available to our partners, but it is not always the pak choi type. Right now we have in stock seed for a napa cabbage type. It grows a tighter, upright head which is pale green. It looks a little different, but the use is about the same. Look for pak choi to come into our catalog later in 2017.