Chinese vegetables goes all-American

12/23/2002 12:00:00 AM
Jessica Kellner

(Dec. 23) Bok choy, another traditional Chinese vegetable, is also called celery mustard or Chinese mustard. Along with napa cabbage, bok choy was originally grown in China and brought to America by Chinese immigrants, says Don Matelson, president of Direct Ethnic Marketers Inc., Los Angeles.

It is now primarily grown in California, Arizona and Mexico.

Bok choy has a long, crisp white stalk and large, dark green leaves. The stalk is mildly sweet and can be eaten raw like celery with peanut butter or veggie dips. When cooked, bok choy maintains its crispness, but becomes more tender. It should be prepared like broccoli, either boiled or steamed, and can be used in soups or stir-fry.

Like napa cabbage, bok choy has been able to cross the cultural barrier and gain a large variety of users, Matelson says. Because of bok choy’s beautiful colors and slender appearance, it can be used as decoration in diplays in the home, he says. This quality makes bok choy a good candidate for holiday merchandising.

Sales of bok choy are steady throughout the year, says Michael Rosen, sales manager at Cooseman’s Miami Inc. in Miami. The company distributes about 60 cases a week.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter in St. Joseph, Mo., sells more bok choy around the end of winter and early spring, says produce manager Cindy Bachov. The store sells up to a case each month at around 84 cents per pound, but its popularity is increasing, she says. Recipe cards increase sales and customers’ willingness to experiment with a new vegetable.

Many of the same merchandising techniques apply to bok choy and napa cabbage.

Vic’s World Class Market in Beverly Hills, Mich., sells bok choy for 99 cents a pound year-round, says owner Vic Ventimiglia. Often the same customers will use both vegetables, so they may be displayed together.. Display them with other Chinese vegetables or with other greens, Ventimiglia says. The main emphasis with all ethnic vegetables should be on drawing customers’ attention and helping them learn to use them, Matelson says.

Bok choy should be wrapped for overnight storage and customers should be advised to refrigerate it unwashed in perforated plastic bags.

BOK CHOY

CARE: Store at 32 F (0 C) with 95 percent humidity for up to three weeks.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE: A half-cup serving contains calcium and vitamins A and C.

AVAILABILITY: Year-round



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