Why Bok Choy?
A lot of good food has originated in Asia, and Bok Choy (Brassica campestris, or Pak Choi) is no exception. It’s enjoyed in Asian dishes, salads, and even on burgers for its light, refreshing flavor, and nutritional value; the sweet green offers consumers a significant portion of daily vitamins A, C, and K.
Also called Chinese cabbage, the plant grows on thick sweet stems, often with white veins running through dark leaves. Because of the thick water-heavy leaves, Bok Choy has a high water weight and some varieties can produce as much as 8 pounds per ZipGrow Tower over a 6-week turn. This makes it a great choice for farmers with a market for it.
Varieties and cousins of Bok Choy
Bok Choy comes in a range of sizes, including large varieties like Joi Choi and smaller varieties, like Shanghai Green Pak Choy, which offer more compact, tender heads with delicate flavor.
Bok Choy (Brassica chinensis L.) belongs to a genus in the mustard family called the brassicas. Members of brassica include kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and dozens of other important food crops. Perhaps the most similar member of brassica—in terms of appearance and taste—is Tatsoi.
Tatsoi (Brassica narinosa, also called Broadbeak mustard) displays the same thick leaves and light veins as Bok Choy and tastes just as good. Tatsoi can be grown in similar conditions.
Napa cabbage (Brassica rapa Pekinensis) is another brassica member which, while it looks different than Bok Choy and Tatsoi, has the same sweet flavor and crispness, and can be used in many of the same recipes (Napa cabbage is often used for the Korean dish, kimchi). Napa cabbage prefers the pH and EC range of Bok Choy and tastes better when grown in cooler temperatures.
Napa cabbage and Bok Choy are both sometimes called Chinese cabbage and are frequently confused for this reason.
- EC: 1.5–2.5
- pH range: 6.0–7.5
- Temperature: 55–75º F (tolerant)
Although Bok Choy is typically milder in cool temperatures, it is fairly temperature tolerant, which makes it an easy fit in many hydroponic and aquaponic systems.
Deficiencies in Bok Choy can be difficult to identify, as the more “dramatic” symptoms like inter-veinal chlorosis, burning, or bronzing are not common. Deficiencies are marked by stunted growth, cupping, and some yellowing. (See the nutrient deficiency key to identify deficiencies!)
Plant Bok Choy from seed and transplant as soon as there are true leaves on the plant; this will typically occur in about four weeks. Though highest yields occur at six weeks from transplant, Bok Choy may be grown on shorter turns down to four weeks.
Bok Choy has thick but fragile veins and ribs; take care when handling not to break leaves. Store Bok Choy in containers with good air circulation and high relative humidity, at temperatures in the 30s (º F), or just above freezing.
Ready to get growing Bok Choy in hydroponics? Enjoy the Choy!
Once you’ve been successful growing it, try it out in a recipe like this fruity duck breast with Bok Choy and carrots.
Learn more about growing hydroponically
What more information on hydroponics, how it works, and how to run a system? Dive into the Intro to Hydroponics course to learn about types of hydroponic system, management techniques, and crops.