Harvest Monday, September 12, 2016 – Bees & Figs + Freezing Asian Greens + Cooking Sweet Potato Leaves

The birds were getting blamed for my damaged figs until I saw the following sight.


The bees discovered my ripened figs and decided they really, really like figs. Now I must pick my figs as soon as they are ready, no more waiting another day or 2 for them to get sweeter.

The good thing is it appears the same bees will return to and stay with the same fig for days until it disappears and not take bites out of multiple figs so I don’t mind sharing with them. But because there are so many bees I have lost many figs. Wonder what the honey taste like?????

∗ ∗ ∗

Planted a fall crop of Hon Tsai Tai in foam ice chest and they certainly are doing well. Cut in all the flowered stems. Below photo is showing a portion of the harvest.


Hon Tsai Tai

Leaves, stems and flowers are all edible.


Cooked Hon Tsai Tai loses some of its color (photo right), but add vinegar, lemon juice or white wine and observe the magical transformation (photo left).


Hon Tsai Tai

Look closely at the plant at the lower right in the above photo, you can see where I cut the stems. The central stem was quite stout, ½+ inch in diameter, the side stems were thinner. All were tender. The plant will continue to produce more flower stems. These will all be about pencil-size but still tender and delicious.

∗ ∗ ∗

Hip and back are much improved. Just in time for me to be able to bend and harvest my first crop of Black Summer Pac Choi from the garden.


Black Summer Pac Choi

Above are 2 of the 6 I harvested. They were planted in partial shade and I believe that is why they are doing well despite the heat and drought. There are 12 remaining in the garden hope they continue to do well.

Also harvested more Win-Win Choi and more Green Lance Gailan.

Despite the heat and drought, all my fall planting of Asian greens are doing extremely well, from now on I will concentrate on fall planting of Asian greens and forget about spring planting.

With so much greens coming in at once decided to freeze most for winter enjoyment. The frozen greens are great in soup, stews and braising, not that wonderful for stir-frying, but acceptable.

The traditional method to freeze vegetables is to blanch then shock in ice water, drain and freeze. With all the blanching, cooling and draining I always felt I was pouring the nutrients down the drain.

Last year I decided to think outside-the-box and experiment with a different method and was happy with the results so am doing the same this year.

Freezing Asian Greens:
Cut vegetables into desired lengths after cleaning and washing.
Add prepared vegetables and a few tablespoons of water (see NOTE) to pot or frying pan.
Turn heat to high and stir and mix vegetables until they turn bright green, lower heat to medium and continue stirring and mixing for another 3-5 minutes, adding water as needed to prevent pot from drying out.
Remove from heat and spread on a sheet pan to cool (vegetables are partially cooked at this point).
Once cooled, place in freezer bag, date, label and freeze.

NOTE: The amount of water needed will depend on the water content of the vegetable. Bok Choi and Napa Cabbage are high-water-content vegetable so the residual water from washing may be sufficient, Hon Tsai Tai, Choy Sum (aka Yu Choy) and Gailan on the other hand are low-water-content vegetable and will need more water.

∗ ∗ ∗

Also brought in some sweet potato vines. I cut about 8-12 inches of the tender tips from the vines of the different varieties of sweet potatoes I grow. Leaves from all varieties (both the cut leaves and the heart-shaped leaves) are edible.


Sweet Potato Vines

Sweet potato leaves are highly nutritious. Use as substitute for spinach, kale, collard or Swiss chard, as a side, in soups, stir-fries, toss with noodles/pasta, quiche, combine with curry and coconut milk …

Sweet potato vine (5486)

Sweet Potato Vine. Vine (lower left) is tough and not edible. Leaf as well as leaf-stem and tender tip (lower right) are all edible.

Cooking sweet potato leaves:
1. Harvest about 8 – 12 inches of the young tender section of the sweet potato vine.
2. Cut the leaves (including leaf stems), and the tender tip from the vine, discard the vine.
3. Separate the leaf-stem from the leaf. Cut leaf-stems and leaves to desired lengths, I cut to about 1½ inch lengths.
4. Add a bit of oil, garlic, ginger slices and salt to wok or frying pan.
5. Add leaf-stems, sauté a minute or 2. Add leaves, continue sautéing until reached desired doneness. (I like mine crisp-tender, see NOTE). Adding liquid, if needed, to prevent burning.
6. Stir in 1 – 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil if desired. Enjoy!

Keep in mind sweet potato leaves reduces in volume by more than ½ when cooked.

NOTE: I like the contrasting texture of the soft melt-in-your-mouth texture of the leaves and the crunchy, a bit chewy texture, of the leaf stems and frequently toss the leaves and leaf-stems into the wok at the same time.

(NOTE: I only eat vines grown from edible sweet potatoes tubers. I was told not all sweet potato vines are edible and not to eat ornamental sweet potato vines, not sure how true that is.)

To learn more about sweet potato leaves and recipes, click here for an article from Prevention, here from Epicurious and here from Botanical-Journeys-plant Guide.

∗ ∗ ∗

Other harvests for the week included: more Figs, Peppermint Swiss Chard, Amaranth, Long Beans and Lettuces.

…   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …   …  …   …  …  …  …

Copyright © by Norma Chang. All Rights Reserved. Do not use/repost any photos and/or articles without permission.

Do visit Dave at Our Happy Acres for more Harvest Monday

About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
This entry was posted in Gardening, gluten free, Harvest Monday, meatless, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetables and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Harvest Monday, September 12, 2016 – Bees & Figs + Freezing Asian Greens + Cooking Sweet Potato Leaves

  1. Ngeun says:

    Hi Norma, A delicious looking harvest! Looking forward to cooking and eating sweet potato leaves one day. From what I can see, the bugs look a lot like wasps, not bees, so please be very careful near them. 🙂

  2. Norma, those are wasps, (they look like yellow jackets), so they are not making honey. Given the number, you might try tracking them so you don’t accidentally run into a nest – according to Wikipedia, sometimes they build nests in the ground.

  3. Angie@Angie's Recipes says:

    Clever bees :-)) I don’t think I have ever had Hon Tsai Tai before…this is again a great harvest, Norma.

  4. Your greens are very impressive and the idea of freezing greens is so interesting. I wonder if this method would work with other greens like collards and kale? Maybe worth a test to see. I agree, those are not honey bees and appear to be yellow jackets. I don’t think a honey bee will go after anything but a flower. But yellow jackets love sugar and they will attack fruit, sugary drinks…and you, so do be careful. Late summer and early fall is the season for yellow jackets and they like to live in the ground in straw and debris as well as under the edges of siding in buildings. The ones we have here are pretty aggressive when disturbed and you can get multiple stings. Not good if you are allergic.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Betsy,
      Yes, this method works with other greens like collard, kale, Swiss chard and amaranth. Upon closer inspection I realize those insects are indeed wasp/yellow jackets, I am going to try and find the nest.

  5. Margaret says:

    Wonderful harvests – that is quite the dramatic difference when you added the acid to the Tsai Tai! Oh, too bad about the figs – are considering a fig-covering strategy for next year? What’s also interesting is that I have had the opposite experience when it comes to Chinese greens – my spring sowings normally do much better than my fall sowings. This year, however, my spring planted choi was a disaster – hopefully the seedlings from the farm that I just planted make up for that.

    And that is a very interesting method for preserving greens – I have OFTEN felt that way about blanching and then pouring all that nutrient rich water down the drain. I’ll have to give your method a try…once I actually get some greens from the garden 🙂

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Margaret,
      It has to do with pH same theory as adding vinegar to red cabbage. This is the first year I am having

      Hello Margaret,
      It has to do with altering the pH same theory as adding vinegar to red cabbage. I am hoping by finding and destroying the wasp nest my problem will be solved. Looking forward to learning how you like my greens preserving method.

  6. Rachel says:

    Hi Norma, I sought out your blog after our in person chat yesterday 🙂 You clearly have quite the garden ! My question is about Pac Choi – how is this different than Bok Choi ? I love Bok Choi. Everything in this week’s harvest is just beautiful.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Rachel,
      Thanks for visiting, Pac Choi and Bok Choi are the same you will also see the same vegetable refer to as Bai Tsai or Bok Choy or Pak Choy, the different spellings have to do with the different Chinese dialect and also with the seed company. There are different varieties of Pac Choi all are interchangeable.

  7. I keep saying I need to try the sweet potato leaves, and I think you have convinced me with your detailed preparation instructions. I’ve got lots of vines at the moment, and I will put it on the menu for tomorrow! Your greens are so pretty too, as always. I’ve grown the Hon Tsai Tai before but I don’t remember much about it. It looks a bit like the Vivid Choi I am trying this fall.

  8. Julie says:

    This is my first season eating sweet potato greens and they are fabulous! It’s great to have a reliable leafy green in the middle of the hot months. I’ll have to try your cooking methods.

  9. Eva Taylor says:

    I had no idea some sweet potato leaves were edible, that’s pretty cool. Your figs look gorgeous, I am hoping I still have my one fig on Figgy. Toronto has been getting a lot of rain, hopefully it’s all good.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Eva,
      Sweet potato leaves are highly nutritious and are pretty pricey at the Asian markets but you could easily grow your own in a container. I hope your 1 fig ripen for you.
      Send us some of your rain please, we are experiencing the worse drought.

  10. Karen says:

    As has been confirmed…they were yellow jackets. Sorry that they went after your figs. They love apples too and were constantly making holes in apples when we had the orchard. But of course, we had hundreds of trees so I could certainly share. Just have to be careful as they have a wicked sting. Happy to know you are feeling better, just don’t over do in the garden.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Karen,
      Thanks to you and all who corrected me, I am going to try and locate the nest and hopefully get rid of the pest once and for all. I am trying not to over do in the garden but it is easier said than done 😦

  11. I had no idea that sweet potato leaves were edible. Also, thanks for the explanation of the “difference” between pak choy and bok choy, ie, none. I plan to grow some from seed starting in a few weeks when I get another beggie bed ready for fall planting. Your foam chest gardens are an inspiration for those of us with small spaces.

  12. Lrong says:

    Figs are lovely to eat…
    The bees eating the fruit, this is new to me… 🙂

  13. Pingback: Harvest Monday, September 19, 2016 + Some Firsts & Some Lasts | Garden to Wok

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s