The Chinese cabbage, locally known as pakchoy, is becoming increasingly popular in Kenya due to its numerous health benefits.
Not only does it have a delightful taste, but its leaves also spread out as it matures, allowing farmers to harvest bountifully towards the end of the season if the right cultivation methods are followed.
Pakchoy is composed of approximately 95% water, 2% starch, 1% protein, and less than 3% fat.
In the picturesque village of Kimuyu, located in Kiambu County, Jane Kimari, a forward-thinking farmer has embraced the potential of pakchoy.
She employs modern farming techniques, such as the use of vertical gardens, to cultivate vegetables. Kimari utilizes this technology to ensure she grows food for home consumption and to sell in the market, considering the scarcity of land in many parts of the Central region.
According to Kimari, pakchoy is a type of vegetable that can be grown in containers or specially designed pots, as well as in soil mixed with natural fertilizers that help retain moisture.
She learned how to grow pakchoy when she attended an Agriculture Exhibition in Kiambu County, where she gained knowledge on planting, caring for, harvesting, and finding markets for her produce.
Preparation starts with weeding to create ample space for the roots to penetrate the ground for nutrients.
Unlike common vegetables, pakchoy is sold in the market between Ksh 130-150 per kilogram.
Kimari cultivates various fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, tomatoes, sukumawiki, cabbage, and spinach. However, she started growing pakchoy after identifying a specific market demand.
She decided to grow pakchoy to reduce stiff competition among farmers in her village, as most of them were still cultivating traditional vegetables that were already familiar to the consumers.
Pakchoy can be cooked similar to cabbage or sukumawiki and takes about three to five minutes to cook. These vegetables can also be consumed raw, making them suitable for nutritional purposes, such as in salads.
Kimari revealed that pakchoy can be dried and stored for an extended period for future use.
Pakchoy is rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins, making it beneficial for heart health, blood purification, and improving overall circulation of fresh air in the body.
The process of growing pakchoy is relatively straightforward, provided the farmer obtains the right seeds from reputable institutions. Farmers should plant the crops uniquely to ensure the leaves receive at least 50% of sunlight, resulting in a bright green color.
“Pakchoy thrives well under moderate sunlight. It needs sunlight exposure for about three to four hours every day,” she said, adding that it is usually grown in areas with high rainfall.
Furthermore, farmers are advised to grow small quantities of pakchoy in different parts of their land. This is because its harvest is ready within just four weeks, allowing farmers to harvest continuously.