Pok choi with fresh green leaves

16 Interesting Facts About Choy Sum (Vegetable)

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Choy sum, also known as Chinese flowering cabbage, is a leafy green vegetable that is popular in Chinese cuisine. With its crisp, tender shoots and yellow flowers, choy sum adds delightful flavor and texture to stir-fries, soups, and more.

Beyond being tasty and versatile in the kitchen, this nutrient-dense veggie also offers some fascinating health benefits. Read on to learn 16 interesting facts about this Asian vegetable.

1. It’s in the Brassica Family

Like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other nutrient powerhouses, choy sum is part of the Brassica or cruciferous vegetable family. These veggies contain glucosinolates – compounds that have been linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

2. Its Scientific Name Means “Oil Vegetable”

The scientific name for choy sum is Brassica rapa var. parachinensis. The Brassica refers to the vegetable family. Rapa indicates that it’s a turnip subspecies. And parachinensis means that it originated from around the Chang Jiang River region in China.

3. Many Names Are Used for This Vegetable

Close Up Photo of a Cabbage

In addition to choy sum, this leafy green also goes by choi sum, cai xin, yu choy, Chinese flowering cabbage, and Chinese broccoli. The varied names for this veggie speak to its popularity across China.

4. It Has Several Plant Varieties

There are five main varieties of choy sum grown across southern China up through Shanghai. These include:

  • Green stalk – Has crisp light-green stems and deep-green leaves.
  • White stalk – Features tender, pale green stalks.
  • Yellow-flowered – Produces bright yellow blossoms.
  • Purplish – Stalks and leaves have a faint purple tinge.
  • Turnip-stemmed – Resembles young Chinese turnips.

5. Both Leaves and Stems Are Edible

With choy sum’s succulent stems and tender leaves, you can enjoy the entire plant! The crisp stalks are reminiscent of bok choy while the leaves taste slightly sweeter. Both make an excellent addition to stir-fries and soup.

6. It Has Yellow Flowers

Once choy sum starts flowering, bright yellow blossoms will emerge from the loose clusters of tiny buds that form on the tips of the stems. Both the buds and flowers can be eaten, adding a delightful, sweet accent to dishes.

7. Choy Sum is Rich in Vitamin C

A single 100-gram serving of boiled choy sum contains 44 milligrams of Vitamin C – that’s nearly half the recommended daily amount! As an antioxidant Vitamin C boosts immunity and protects cells from damage while promoting healthy skin and bones.

8. It Contains Bone-Strengthening Vitamin K

In addition to Vitamin C, choy sum is high in Vitamin K which plays a vital role in blood clotting and healing wounds. It also helps build stronger bones by modifying proteins required for calcium binding. Just one cup of boiled choy sum provides 299 micrograms of bone-protecting Vitamin K.

9. The Vegetable is Packed With Folate

Also known as Vitamin B9, folate forms red blood cells and produces DNA. It also works to prevent memory loss and heart disease. A single serving of cooked choy sum offers 100 micrograms of essential folate.

10. Choy Sum is Very Low in Calories

From above of verdant ripe leaves of pok choi placed on blue background

With all of its beneficial vitamins and minerals, choy sum is surprisingly low in calories. 100 grams of boiled choy sum contains just 13 calories. This makes it an excellent nutrient-packed addition to any weight loss diet.

11. It’s Rich in Powerful Antioxidants

Choy sum contains valuable antioxidants like quercetin, chlorophyll, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin that defend your cells against instability caused by free radicals. These compounds support better health and offer protection against disease.

12. Choy Sum May Help Fight Inflammation

With its anti-inflammatory glucosinolates and Vitamin K content, regularly eating choy sum may help reduce systemic inflammation involved with arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and neurological decline.

13. It Could Protect Against Certain Cancers

As a cruciferous vegetable, choy sum contains special sulfur compounds called glucosinolates that may shield cells from DNA damage that can trigger tumor growth. Early studies suggest it may help deter breast, bladder, colon and prostate cancers.

14. Choy Sum Keeps Your Eyes Healthy

Lutein and zeaxanthin contained in choy sum filter harmful high-energy blue light rays to maintain the retina and macular health. Getting enough of these antioxidants defends against cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and other eyesight problems.

15. It’s Easy to Grow at Home

If you have a vegetable garden, choy sum is a great choice for an easy care crop. It can tolerate partial shade and has few pest or disease problems. Simply sprinkle seeds directly in the ground 1⁄4 inch deep, keep moist and pick the stalks when 6 to 12 inches tall.

16. Quick Stir-Frying is the Best Cooking Method

Green Vegetable and Fruits on a Wooden Table

To enjoy choy sum at its crispy, flavorful best, slice washed stalks on the diagonal and stir-fry briefly in a little sesame or peanut oil over high heat. Sprinkle with a dash of soy sauce, oyster sauce or salt to taste. Avoid overcooking, so the stems stay crunchy.

Key Takeaways on Choy Sum

  • Choy sum is a leafy, cruciferous vegetable with antioxidants for better health.
  • Both the crisp stems and tender leaves can be eaten.
  • It’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K along with folate.
  • Low in calories, choy sum supports weight loss diets.
  • Potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits from vegetable compounds.
  • Quick stir-frying preserves its signature crunch.

FAQs About Choy Sum

What does choy sum taste like?

With a flavor reminiscent of bok choy crossed with broccoli, choy sum features crisp, succulent stems and tender, mildly sweet leaves that pair well with bold Asian sauces.

Is choy sum the same as yu choy?

Yu choy is one name used to refer to choy sum but also means a different yet similar vegetable called Chinese oil vegetable. Check for yellow flowers to confirm you have choy sum.

How do you cook choy sum in Chinese cooking?

The signature quick-cook method is stir-frying. Slice washed stems diagonally, heat oil, and fry choy sum with garlic and seasoning for a classic Chinese vegetable dish in minutes.

Can you substitute bok choy for choy sum?

While they taste slightly different, in most recipes you can use bok choy as a substitute for choy sum or vice versa. Adjust cooking times as needed.

Is choy sum bitter?

When overcooked, choy sum leaves and stems can become bitter-tasting due to high amounts of alkaline nitrites. For sweet, mild flavor, wok-fry or steam briefly until just tender-crisp.

Enjoying this versatile Asian green in your diet provides vitamin-packed nutrition with antioxidant power along with a deliciously easy vegetable to prepare anytime. Give choy sum flavorful stir-fries and soups a try tonight!


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