THE BLOG

Asian Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden This Autumn

As the days get shorter, the nights get longer and summer turns into autumn, it’s time to start your winter garden. Consider adding some Asian vegetables this year for variety on your dinner table. Many are similar to vegetables you’re already likely to be growing. Here are a few of our favourites:

Instead of: Green Cabbage
Grow this: Napa (Chinese) Cabbage

Sweeter and softer than it its green cousin, Napa, or Chinese, Cabbage is oblong in shape with thick crispy steams and yellow-green leaves. Napa cabbage grows well during cooler months, but it can grow year round in milder climates. It can be harvested 50 – 80 days after planting.

Napa cabbage can be used anywhere you would normally use regular cabbage. It does well in salads and soups, and you can even use it in cabbage roll recipes.

Warm Cabbage | Asian Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden This Autumn | FineChoiceFoods.com

Stir fried cabbage with chilies. | Photo: John

Recipes for Inspiration:

Napa Cabbage and Tofu Salad – The cabbage is the star in this crunchy salad.
Simple Miso Soup with Salmon, Tofu, Mushrooms and Napa Cabbage – Warm and filling. Easy to put together.
Kung Pao Pork with Napa Cabbage Edamame Salad – Skip the take out and try this instead.
Napa Cabbage Rolls – Take this European favorite and spin it on its head by using napa cabbage instead.
Napa Cabbage Brown Rice Salad & Pan Seared Wild Salmon – The perfect side dish.

Instead of: Swiss Chard
Grow this: Bok Choy

bok choy & mustard salad | Asian Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden This Autumn | FineChoiceFoods.com

Photo: Jules

Bok choy is a cool weather vegetable and grows well in the spring and autumn. Planting from seed, bok choy grows quickly between 40 – 50 days. The plant requires consistent watering. Thin baby bok choy when they reach about 2 inches tall, pulling the smallest and leaving the larger ones to develop. Allow 6 inches between the remaining plants so they’re able to flourish. Bok choy can be eaten at every stage of the growing process from baby greens to mature leaves so you can enjoy them as you thin out your plants.

Preparing bok choy can be as simple as stir frying them with some garlic and ginger or a little more complex like adding them to a savory tart. Bok choy is versatile and makes a great alternative for your vegetable side dish.

Chengdu Impression | Asian Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden This Autumn | FineChoiceFoods.com

Garlic stir fried bok choy | Photo: Bing

Recipes for Inspiration:

Stir Fried Bok Choy – The easiest way to cook up bok choy to serve with your meal.
Bok Choy and Mushroom Soba Bowl – Bok choy works well as your vegetable component for your noodle dishes.
Bok Choy Chicken – A simple, but delicious dish. Serve with rice.
Yogurt Marinated Chicken Legs with Bok Choy – Substitute bok choy for your regular greens with your favorite roast chicken.
Bok Choy and Mushroom Tart – Try something new by adding bok choy to your savory tarts.

Instead of: Broccoli
Grow this: Chinese Broccoli aka Gai Lan

chinese broccoli | Asian Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden This Autumn | FineChoiceFoods.com

Photo: Jules

Due to its similar appearance and taste to broccoli, gai lan is sometimes referred to as Chinese Broccoli. It is known for its broad leaves and thick, crunchy steams. Gai lan is both sweet and bitter at the same time. Gai lan is usually started from seed directly in the garden in the early autumn. Each plant can be harvested several times. Consistent watering is needed in order to keep the soil moist. Gai lan prefers to grow in the damp environment. Like bok choy, gai lan can be eaten throughout it’s growing process, reaching full maturity in 60 – 70 days.

The simplest way to cook gai lan is by steaming it until the stalks are tender, but have a slight crunch, and the leaves are glossy green. It’s topped with a drizzle of oyster sauce. Otherwise, gai lan is great for stir fries but can also be substituted for kale, broccoli and collard greens in other recipes.

Gai lan | Asian Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden This Autumn | FineChoiceFoods.com

Stir fried gai lan in garlic. | Photo: Suzi Edwards-Alexander

Recipes for Inspiration:

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce – A simple classic. Easy to throw together and tasty.
Stir Fried Gai Lan with Fish Cake and Chinese Sausage – For something a little more Asian.
Honey Soy Pork with Gai Lan – Chop the gai lan into smaller pieces for a different experience.
Gai Lan Egg Cups – East meets west in this gai lan appetizer.
Miso Gai Lan Egg Soup – Warm and satisfying on a cold day.

What is going into your garden this year?

An Interview with Terry Mitchell – Cabbage Farmer Extraordinaire

Here at Fine Choice Foods, we believe that the best ingredients make the best food. Because of this, we try to source our fresh vegetables locally whenever possible. All of our produce is delivered daily and processed right away. One of our most commonly used ingredients is cabbage so it was important to us to be able to source some of it locally.

We chatted with one of our local farmers, Terry Mitchell to talk about his farm and how our cabbage is grown before it gets to our doors.

Terry Mitchell Cabbage

FCF: When and how did you become a farmer?

TM: The farm has been in the family for several generations. I grew up farming.

FCF: What is the most surprising thing about farming?

TM: Nothing surprises me about farming anymore as I have been doing it for so long!

FCF: Does your farm follow organic practices? Why or why not?

TM: We do not farm organically as you cannot do it in a small way and we do not have the sales in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island to support our entire farm producing organically.

FCF: What is your process to growing cabbage? When do you plant it? What do you do to make sure it keeps growing?

TM: First step is the correct choice of field. You require a field that has not had a cole crop (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc.) in it in the previous 3 years and that will be able to be harvested in 3-6 months after the cabbage is ready.

Next step is proper field preparation so that your field is clean and soil ready. This includes ploughing, disking, cultivating and then fertilizing the field.

After the field is prepared you can plant seed direct into soil or plant transplants which have been grown in a greenhouse prior to field preparation. We prefer to plant transplants which helps us to grow faster than the weeds!!!

Final steps include fertilizing again and monitoring and controlling pests and disease.

FCF: How do you fertilize? How do you manage pests and disease?

TM: Fertilization is done mechanically with a spreader and later with a side dresser. We monitor for pests and disease and treat them as necessary.

FCF: How long does it take to grow a head of cabbage?

TM: The entire process takes approximately 80 days of growing. Certain varieties of cabbage remain in the field even in the winter until they are required to fill orders. This really helps to alleviate the cost of storage and provides the customer with the freshest and sweetest cabbage we can offer.

FCF: What else do you grow besides cabbage?

TM: We have close to 40 crops we grow including carrots, lettuce, onions, berries and parsnips.

Thanks for answering our questions for us Terry!

Building a Better Salad – An Infographic

There is a delicate art when it comes to making a salad. You want it to be hearty enough to leave you satisfied and full after a meal. At the same time you don’t want to load it down with high fat items that leave you feeling heavy and slow.

By breaking down your salad into layers, you’re able to put together a delicious and healthy salad. The greens you use form the base and by including protein, healthy fats and grains you can turn it into a satisfying meal. Mix in different textures and flavours to keep your meal interesting. To tie it all together, make your own salad dressing using your favorite seasonings.

Follow these easy steps to make your own delicious salad.

Building a Better Salad - An Infograph

5 Delicious and Easy Salad Dressings to Know

Under the heat of summer the last thing you want to do is turn on the stove or oven. If you’re like us, the summer weather plus the abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs will have you eating plenty of salads. One way to add variety to your salads is to switch up your dressings.

chicken salad

Photo: Jules

Making salad dressing is so simple. You know exactly what you’re putting into it and can customize it to what you like and have in your pantry. Plus, you can make however much you need for a week. No more wasting half a bottle of store bought dressing that you never really liked in the first place. READ MORE [»]

A Day Volunteering at the Richmond Food Bank

Last week, members of our team spent a couple hours at the Richmond Food Bank to lend a helping hand. We’ve donated to the food bank and this was a great opportunity for our team members to see where our donations go.

Fine Choice Foods Volunteers at the Richmond Food Bank

We were welcomed at their main warehouse on Cedarbridge way where they collect and distribute donations. We were given some background on their operations and a short tour of their facilities.

Since 1983, the Richmond Food Bank serves over 1500 people a week through their various programs. Regularly they give out 30 000 pounds of food a week. That’s a lot of support for our community! Through it all, the Richmond Food Bank receives no governmental support so their whole operation is funding through generous donations and volunteer hours. READ MORE [»]

Behind the Scenes: Product Development

On Friday May 16th, we welcomed the winner of our contest, The Battle of the Culinary Students – the Gyoza Wars, to our plant.  Christa Yeung was the teenage gourmand who captured the attention of the Fine Choice Foods and Choices Markets teams with her Spicy Pork and Cilantro Gyoza flavor. We started the day together with a plant tour and then sent her off working with our R&D technologists.

Christa with Jeremy, one of our R&D Technologists.

Christa with Jeremy, one of our R&D Technologists.

Christa arrived, brimming with enthusiasm, and with a basic recipe which was used as a starting point for our new gyoza flavour. First up was chopping up all the ingredients that made up the filling. In her video, Christa highlighted the use of water chestnuts and Sriracha. The use of vegetables was minimal in the original recipe however we suggested the use of more vegetables to give a more desirable texture to the gyoza. As a result,we added a variety of fresh vegetables like green onions, ginger, garlic and a variety of spices to liven up the flavor profile. READ MORE [»]

Winner Announced for Battle of the Culinary Students – the Gyoza Wars

Fine Choice Foods and Choices Market are pleased to announce that we have selected a winner for Battle of the Culinary Students – the Gyoza Wars.

Congratulations to Christa Yeung from R.C. Palmer Secondary School in Richmond, BC. We had a number of great ideas submitted from students across the Lower Mainland and finally narrowed it down to Christa’s idea of Spicy Cilantro and Pork Gyoza.

As a part of her prize, Christa will be visiting us on May 16 to work with our R&D specialists to develop her flavour profile.

Look for these gyozas in your local Choices Market in the summer!

 

Grow Your Own Asian Herb Garden

As the days are getting longer and warmer, many are starting up their gardens for the year. Consider adding a few herbs commonly found in Asian cooking to your garden to try new flavours and ways of cooking. There is nothing better than harvesting your own herbs and enjoying them fresh with your meal.

Cilantro

Garden fresh cilantro

A herb commonly found in many gardens, Cilantro is also known as coriander leaf and Chinese parsley.

Cuisines: Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Indian
Can be found in dishes like: Cilantro Pesto Shrimp Tostadas, Cilantro Beef Stew, Cilantro Peanut Soba Noodles

How to grow it:
Cilantro should be grown in the spring or fall when the weather is cool. It requires sun, but not a lot of heat. Cilantro is best grown from seeds as it grows quickly and doesn’t like being transplanted. When it starts to flower, remove the flowers to keep the cilantro thriving.

How to use it:
Cilantro loses its flavor quickly when it is dried or cooked. It is best used fresh and immediately after harvest. Add cilantro to your favorite dishes just before serving. If you want to preserve it, try freezing it in ice cube trays with water. READ MORE [»]

Natural Beauty Solutions Found in Your Kitchen Pantry

Keeping with our theme of reducing waste and preventing foods from being thrown out, today we present to you health and beauty regimes found right in your kitchen pantry. For pennies, you can make yourself feel refreshed and rejuvenated. No more paying for expensive facial scrubs and exfoliants, you can find everything you need in your kitchen pantry.

Avocados for hair and face masks

Avocado facial

You’ve seen everyone put cucumber slices on their eyes, but what about an avocado? An overripe avocado that can’t be eaten is perfect for using in your beauty care. The oils in the avocado make it great for dry skin. You can use it to make a face mask by mash or puree the avocado and apply it to your face. Let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes and then rinse it off with warm water. You can also place slices under your eye to reduce puffy eyes. READ MORE [»]

Shelf Life of Foods Found in Your Refrigerator

Spring is here! The fresh scent of flowers blooming, the sun slowly coming out and the days are getting longer and warmer. And with spring comes spring cleaning. While you’re emptying the closet, and wiping down the house, don’t forget to clean out your pantry, and most importantly your refrigerator.

Foods tend to enter, but never leave. Bottle after bottle of condiments hidden in the dark corners of the refrigerator, miscellaneous foods in jars. This is the perfect time of the year to give your refrigerator a good scrub and emptying.

To help you with your spring cleaning we’ve put together a guide on knowing what to keep and what to toss when it comes to the foods found in your kitchen. With the help of the printed dates on the package, your eyes and nose, your kitchen fridge will be organized in no time. READ MORE [»]