This popular oriental vegetable is one of the most beautiful leafy greens. Perhaps it is the exquisite emerald green stems or the thick, glossy leaves, they are always a sight to behold and a delight to eat.
Kailan is a fantastic vegetable chimera - with the florets of broccoli, the stems of asparagus, and leaves like tender collard greens.
One of the best ways to enjoy Kailan is to cook it Hong Kong Style. The vegetables are either blanched or steamed first, then topped with a little oyster sauce. The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity. It compliments chicken, fish or meat dishes and brings out the exceptional flavour and sweetness of Kailan.
Kailan 'Kichi' is a uniform variety with large blue green waxy leaves. It shows some tolerance to Downy Mildew and has excellent stem and bud eating quality. It has a mild flavour with a sweet and slightly bitter bite, and it’s perfect for stir-fries or any other light heat/quick cooking method.
The advantage Chinese broccoli has over standard broccoli is that it can be harvested only 8 to 10 weeks from sowing, after which it can be used as a green vegetable, in salads, or in stir-fry. Its complex, but not overwhelming flavour is a nice change of pace from regular broccoli or simple spinach.
Kailan prefers rich, moist, well drained soil with lots of organic matter. It can be sown directly into open ground or can be planted into large containers. Some protection is required for winter harvesting.
This hardy vegetable does particularly well in winter in an unheated polytunnel and they are the last ones to bolt when the hot weather hits. Phasing the sowing will extend the cropping period.
Sowing: Sow from April to September.
Sow outdoors into finely raked, moist, weed free soil. Sow seeds successionally every 2 to 3 weeks in spring.
Sow in rows 1.5cm (½in) deep. Seeds will germinate in 5 to 15 days at temperatures between 13 to 24°C (55 to 70°F).
Thin once the seedlings at 10cm (4in) tall to 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) apart for harvesting as young plants, for mature plants grow 30cm (12in) apart.
It is important to water well in dry weather and to keep well weeded. Checks to growth, brought on by overcrowding or drought, will cause plants to bolt. Plants need protection in the open garden, use nets to prevent bird and caterpillar damage
Harvesting: Harvest from June to December
Kailan needs to be young and tender when harvested. Harvest just as the buds emerge before the flowers open. Cut 20cm (8in) stalks including a few leaves.
Like European broccoli, Chinese broccoli can be harvested multiple times. When the main shoot is harvested the first time, auxiliary shoots grow, which can be harvested two more times. Shoots will be smaller each time. Large-scale production will harvest once and use multiple plantings for constant supply.
Most Kailan have white flowers, though there are varieties that include both white and yellow flowers. The flower buds should be tight and compact, there should be buds not open flowers. Lots and lots of open flowers means the stalk is older and past its prime for eating and it will be more bitter and chewy.
The middle of the stalk should ideally be one colour – a creamy, translucent colour. If you see a solid white circle in the middle of the stalk, it may mean the plant is a little old. Check the leaves and the buds to make sure they will be tender when cooked.
Kailan or Kai-lan is eaten widely in Chinese cuisine, and especially in Cantonese cuisine. Common preparations include kailan stir-fried with ginger and garlic, and boiled or steamed and served with oyster sauce. It is also common in Vietnamese cuisine, Myanmar and Thai cuisine.
This popular oriental vegetable compliments chicken, fish or meat dishes. Following Asian culinary traditions these greens may be stir fried, used in soups or braised. Try steaming them lightly or simply sauté in good olive oil with garlic. It is also good with some sesame oil. It also holds up well when stir fried but the key is not to overcook it.
It has a high water content and becomes limp very quickly so should be cooked very quickly over high temperature so that the leaves become tender and the stalks stay crisp. In stir-fried dishes and soups, it is added toward the end of the cooking process.
Kailan is known by a variety of names - Chinese Broccoli, Chinese Kale, Flowering Kale (English).
Kailan, Kai-lan (Cantonese), Gai lan, Jie lan, Hon Tsai Tai (Mandarin), Cai rô (Vietnamese), and Kat Na (Khmer). Occasionally it is referred to by the ambiguous term "Chinese cabbage,"
The literal meaning of Kai-lan is ‘Mustard Orchid’.
Broccoli and Kailan belong to the same species Brassica oleracea, but Kailan is in the group alboglabra. The Latin albus glabrus means ‘white and hairless’.
Broccolini is a hybrid between Broccoli and Kailan. The florets are similar to that of broccoli (although much looser) while its slender body is very much akin to Kailan.
The vegetable Broccoli raab is also occasionally incorrectly referred to as Chinese Broccoli, it is a distinct variety. Brassica rapa var. cymosa.
These three brassicas are related but are totally distinct vegetables, each have their own different tastes. They are close enough to be interchangeable in recipes to a point.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 400 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 400 seeds per gram Common Name Chinese Broccoli, Hon Tsai Tai Other Common Names Also spelt Kai-lan, Kailaan or Kai Lan Family Brassicaceae Genus Brassica Species oleracea var. alboglabra Cultivar Kichi Synonym Chinese Broccoli, Chinese Kale, Flowering Kale, (English)
Kailan, Kai-lan, Kai Lan (Cantonese), Gai lan, Gailan, Jie lan, Jielan (Mandarin),
Cai rô (Vietnamese), and Kat Na (Khmer).
Hardiness Hardy Biennial Time to Sow Sow from April to September. Germination 5 to 15 days at 13 to 24°C (55 to 70°F). Time to Harvest 21 to 28 days for babyleaf, 45 to 50 days to maturity Notes Grown as an annual