Demo: Growing Asian Vegetables

From 2 to 3 PM on Saturday, a local gardener, garden writer, and blogger will be featuring several kinds of Asian vegetables, discussing how to grow and prepare different varieties and sampling dishes that can be made with them.

Master Gardener trainee Wendy Kiang-Spray is a full-time high school counselor, but she also freelance writes for Heirloom Gardener, Washington Gardener, Kiki magazine, and the Garden Guides website. She maintains the blog Greenish Thumb and is working on a book about growing and cooking Chinese vegetables.

Wendy will be demonstrating how to prepare several Asian vegetables for cooking, including luffa gourd, bitter melon, winter melon, and lemongrass. She will also sample a winter melon soup, a tea, and a dessert that you can grow and prepare yourself.

Bottle gourds dangling from a trellis in Wendy’s father’s garden

Most of the vegetables Wendy grows in her small garden and those in her father’s large garden are authentically Chinese, she says. “The climate in Shantung, China, where my parents grew up, is very similar to ours, so it all translates well to our gardens here. Many Chinese veggies serve double-duty in that they can be eaten when young but also used as household items. The bottle gourd for example, is water-tight and can sometimes last for generations! Bamboo is eaten and is delicious, but it is also made into household objects, furniture, building material. Some of the veggies that grow in more tropical climates, we can try here, but with patience and some good strategies. Lemongrass, for example, we need to grow as annual plants, or plant in containers and move inside to a sunny window to overwinter. Asian greens are famous bolters. To stay a step ahead, we try to be diligent about growing greens in cool weather – autumn is ideal for many Chinese greens. I personally think many Chinese veggies are just gorgeous too. Growing up, I remember the beautiful large plants like the Chinese long bean that grows hanging down in pairs, the whole plant creating so much shade the garden looks like a magical place. The bottle gourds right now suspend from their trellises like lanterns.”

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