If you’re familiar with Chinese cuisine, you may have heard of the vegetable tatsoi. It’s slowly growing in popularity in North America and the rest of the world. We’ll explain more about what tatsoi is and how it can impact your health.
What is Tatsoi?
Tatsoi is a leafy green cabbage popular throughout Asia. It also goes by the names spinach mustard, spoon mustard, and rosette bok choy. It’s very similar to bok choy, and both tatsoi and bok choy are members of the Brassica rapa family. This family also includes turnips and is the base for canola oil and rapeseed oil.
Tatsoi typically has white or green stems and broad, scooped leaves. You may have eaten tatsoi before without knowledge, as its leaves are common in salad mixes. It’s got a mustardy taste, somewhat sweet and earthy, and a sweet scent.
It’s more common to use tatsoi leaves in cooking, but both the leaves and stems are edible. You can eat tatsoi raw or cooked. The texture of the leaves is similar to spinach, though the two taste very different.
What are the Health Benefits of Tatsoi?
Like many other leafy green vegetables, tatsoi is high in micronutrients. It is
- High in calcium, almost twice as milk. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth but may also help control high blood pressure, ease some PMS symptoms, and prevent some cancers.
- High in vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for proper tissue formation and building your immune system.
- High in vitamin A. Vitamin A helps with maintaining healthy skin and eyes.
- High in vitamin K. The vitamin K group helps with the blood clotting process.
- High in folate. Folate is a B vitamin that assists with cell growth and metabolism. It’s also essential for those who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, as it helps prevent spinal cord defects.
- High in Potassium. The mineral potassium is an electrolyte that helps your body regulate the fluid content of cells and the chemical reactions in your body. Potassium, in particular, is vital for heart function.
While full of amazing micronutrients, tatsoi isn’t as high on macronutrients. You’ll find about 22 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.2 grams of protein in 100 grams of raw tatsoi leaves.
How to Cook and Eat Tatsoi?
Tatsoi is not difficult to cook, although you can eat it raw. Before eating, make sure you properly clean and prepare your tatsoi. Break the head of the tatsoi apart. If you want just the leaves, cut them from the bulb, leaving a small amount of stem attached.
If you’re keeping the stems, be sure to wipe them down thoroughly to remove any dirt. Rinse your tatsoi in cold water, then dry. To eat it raw, simply toss the leaves in with a salad mix. Store it in a plastic bag in the hydrator drawer of your fridge, but don’t freeze. Tatsoi is too delicate to freeze well.
There are multiple methods you can use to cook tatsoi. Cook and use the leaves similar to how you would use baby spinach or arugula. You can try sauteing, steaming, or stir-frying tatsoi.
How to Grow Tatsoi?
Like growing many other Asian vegetables, it’s very easy to grow tatsoi.
You can plant tatsoi in the spring or summer. However, they don’t do well in the cold. So, if your area is too cold in spring, you may want to wait. They don’t do well in strong heat either. The best times to plant them are the end of spring and the end of summer. Tatsoi will mature in about three weeks, but will sprout quicker if you soak the seeds in water first.
Plant your tatsoi in an area that gets between 3 to 5 hours of sunlight daily. If you plant it in an area with more sunlight, take care to keep your tatsoi plants well-hydrated. The soil you use should have a lot of organic matter or compost. Tatsoi grows best in soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0, but will also grow in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.
Plant your tatsoi seeds about ¼ to ½ inches deep and space them about an inch apart. You may need to thin your plants out as they grow. Try to keep about 6 to 8 inches between the plants. You will typically need to water your tatsoi two to three times per day.
When the leaves reach about four inches, you can start to cut the leaves. If you want to harvest the whole plant, leave about an inch in the ground so that the plant can resprout. Tatsoi is also a "cut-and-come-again" vegetable, meaning you can trim the older, outer leaves and allow the plant to continue growing new leaves.
Should You Add Tatsoi to Your Diet?
If you buy pre-mixed salads, you may have tatsoi in your diet already! Otherwise, it’s a great item to add alongside or as a substitute for kale or spinach.
In fact, it can be hard to pass up the fantastic micronutrients that tatsoi offers. This is especially true because tatsoi contains vitamins and minerals that Americans tend to not get enough of in their diets, like calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium.
Though it’s a common salad kit filler, you may struggle to find heads or bunches of tatsoi on your store shelves. In that case, you may have better luck growing it yourself. It’s not a difficult plant to grow.
If growing your own tatsoi isn’t an option and you can’t find it anywhere, don’t stress too much. A lot of similar leafy greens, like spinach and kale, offer similar nutrient profiles. That being said, if you can find tatsoi, it’s a fantastic way to add variety and nutrition into your diet.