First Try with the Hon Tsai Tai

We gave our first shot to cooking and eating the Hon Tsai Tai tonight. Honestly…not so impressed. However, I think I know how to rectify the problem for next time.

I cut the bottom 3-4 inches off the stems, because I’d read on a couple other sites that the stems can be extremely woody. Then I just chopped the entire thing…leaves, stems. and flowers into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces.

Let me pause for a minute and say that even if I never figure out how to cook this stuff the right way, the purple stems, green leaves, and yellow flowers make it pretty enough to just throw in a vase and forget about the edible part.

Next I mixed up the sauce for the dish. Most of the recipes I had found recommended stir-frying in oil with some combination of Asian seasonings. Since we like Asian food, we have hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil on hand. I mixed up a little hoisin, a little dark soy, a little sesame oil, some ginger, and some garlic powder (I was too lazy to chop fresh ginger and garlic for this).

After heating the pan with a little oil, I tossed in the chopped Hon Tsai Tai and gave it a dash of salt and pepper. After it was partially cooked, I added the sauce to finish the cooking. It definitely looked and smelled very tasty, even if that was just the tasty sauce talking. I will admit, I probably over-did it with the sauce. It pretty much overpowered the flavor of the veggies. But you know, I’m not much different from anyone else trying something new. I’m afraid that it’s going to be distasteful, so I slather it in something I know I do like!

So…unfortunately, the consensus was that we harvested it too late. The larger stalks were like chewing on logs, and the smaller stems were like crunchy, fibrous twigs. Occasionally we would find a stalk that was tender, and the flower parts were fairly tasty – what we could taste underneath the sauce.

The matter of harvesting past the ideal stage is really my fault. In the back of my head I knew that they should be harvested younger, but my desire to get a decent yield convinced me to let the stalks get bigger. The plants just aren’t as big as I thought they would be, and they aren’t producing many good sized stalks. I’ll try harvesting some more tender shoots and cook them again (maybe with less sauce!). My conclusion may be that if you want to grow Broccoli Raab, you should grow an Italian variety. It might also be the case that the plants would be bigger and more productive grown in the fall rather than the spring.

Speaking of spring…We’ve recorded another 1.3 inches of rain in the last 36 hours. I’m going to go console myself with strawberries.

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on May 20, 2010, in Harvesting & Eating and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Good going giving it a try. But, I think I’ll pass.

  2. i’m growing some for the first time. my dad reckons the optimum time to eat them is before they start flowering or something like that.

  3. thanks for a great post! i’ve got some hon tsai tai (I think) and although it’s late August, and therefore way past time for a good harvest, i’m going to give it a try. i wonder if i soak the greens before cooking that might reduce the bitterness??

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