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OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS, THE popularity of Oriental greens has increased greatly among American vegetable gardeners. The mild, sweet flavor of Chinese cabbage and spiciness of Japanese mustard have made them unique among western foods. New varieties of seeds appear in catalogs almost every year, enticing gardeners to devote space to these new flavors and textures.
Except for a few, Oriental greens are members of the mustard family, Cruciferae. The most available of these are the Chinese cabbages, pak-choi and Japanese mustards.
There are many kinds of Chinese cabbages, all of which fall under the botanical description of Brassica rapa. One of the most popular is the hearted type that somewhat resembles romaine lettuce, with large, compact heads; it is often referred to as the napa cabbage. It is grown for its tender, mild leaves. Another type is taller and cylindrically shaped, with dark green leaves crinkled like those of savoy cabbages. The most frequently seen varieties are 'Michihli' and the hybrid 'Jade Pagoda.'
Chinese cabbage is also available in loose- or semi-headed varieties, which vary from producing …