Asian greens growing big At Southern Illinois University

Asian greens like bok choy are taking over the foodie scene, popping up in magazines and on cooking shows. The Asian green trend is growing at Southern Illinois University, and students and researchers have the chance to learn from it.

It may be December, but the greenhouse at Southern Illinois University is packed full of ripe, colorful vegetables.

"This is the Tokyo bekana,” said Southern Illinois University Researcher April Vigardt.

Vitamin greens are one of 17 different kinds of Asian greens being harvested by researchers at Southern Illinois University. The veggies are staples in Asian cuisine in places like Thailand and South Korea, and now they’re being cooked up right on campus, thanks to a two-year specialty crop grant.

"And they taste really good, too. In a lot of the taste tests, people have been taking to them really favorably," Vigardt said.

She, along with research students, are studying how the greens grow and their nutritional value, but they’re also looking at how to find foods and recipes to pair with the greens, so people actually try vegetables like hon tsai tai. "Just kind of mix it up and make a really nice salad mix with it," Vigardt said. She says they also pair well in sandwiches, soups, stir fry and much more.

Growing mammoth-sized greens is proving easy both during the summer and winter. Vigardt says she’s hoping local farmers will have an interest in growing these greens, not only because they grow so well in diverse conditions, but so people all over have the chance to try them.

"That’s part of the point of this study is to get people to try something different and to see that this is something that can easily work in to their cooking," she said.

Vigardt is hoping this is one food trend that turns into a mealtime favorite.

If you want to try Asian greens, you can pick them up from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Winter Market at Carbondale High School.

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