Kai Lan (Brassica alboglabra), also commonly known as "Chinese Broccoli", is part of the mustard family, similar to that of the European Broccoli. The youngest plant parts are preferred, as they are the sweetest and most tender part of the plant. Kai Lan can be eaten fresh or boiled, steamed or fried.
It is a stout plant, with most varieties growing to about 18inc (45cm) when mature. It has flat and broad leaves, and stalks that are thick and sturdy. Unlike their European counterparts, the Chinese Broccoli has loose buds that do not form a part of a large head. The flower stems are chunky, succulent and very smooth on average 1/2 to 3/4 in (1-2cm) in diameter. The whole flowering shoot is much "meatier" then the Choi Sum shoots.
Kai Lan is essentially green or a distinct blue-green, although most varieties have a slight grey, waxy outer look. Depending on the variety they can be dull or glossy, smooth or wrinkled, round or narrow and pointed.
Although it is a perennial plant, commercially it is grown as an annual crop. It can spreads up to 40 cm in diameter and can reach 45 cm in height. Kai Lan has some frost tolerance and can be grown all year round. However, it is vital to select the right variety for the time of year. Trials that have been conducted indicate that late Spring and Summer are the best times to grow Kai Lan. The growth of Kai Lan is very slow from Autumn onwards.
Chinese Broccoli, Chinese Kale, Jie Lan, Gai Lan and leaf broccoli.
Kai Lan is generally cooked in much the same way as Choi Sum usually stir-fried, either on its own or with meat and prawns.
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