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Why is my Chinese leaf covered in spines?

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I have recently grown several Chinese Leaf or Chinese Cabbage plants in a raised bed and they have grown very quickly and seemingly healthily but now that they appear ready to be harvested, I have found that they are covered in tiny spines that sting when you touch them. Surely this isn't normal? I have never been stung when buying one in Tesco!




Some Chinese greens do have slightly hairy leaves but they don't 'sting'. (Though might feel slightly prickly) Have you got a photo of them as this would help identify what you have got?
In any case this would be very early for Chinese cabbage to be harvested as normally you sow it now for autumn use, otherwise it goes up to seed prematurely without heading.
Do you know what the name of your variety of greens is? Pak Choi, for example, or just a generic Chinese leaf?

4 Jul, 2009


Thanks very much for that. The packet just says "Orient Surprise F1" which sounds like a Chinese racing car rather than a cabbage, and you are absolutely right about it going to seed prematurely: it did. We sowed it early in June (the packet said June to August but it could have meant late June) and harvest August to September, but the rate at which they grew, by August there would have been nothing left as the centres were starting to rot. "Sting" may have been a bit melodramatic on my part: I don't mean like a nettle, more like a thistle. It left no lasting damage after we let go but it did leave a painful sensation that made us very unwilling to put it anywhere near a sandwich. It was more than "hairy" and not at all pleasant. Could the prickles be due to planting too early also or have we just managed to create some kind of freak specimin? Unfortunately I have no photos as my husband had a strop when he realised they had gone to seed and composted the lot.

5 Jul, 2009


I would re-sow it if you still have seed any time from now until August. Especially if the weather is cooler it should do better. I don't know the variety you mention (perhaps the 'surprise' is the prickles! But if you stir fry it or steam it for a minute or so, the prickles won't be a problem. Lots of Chinese greens are like this and it shouldn't be a problem, though as you say you might not like to eat it raw. For sandwiches, a fantastic Chinese greens is mizuna. This produces masses of cut and come again leaves, is so easy to grow, and with a bit of cover will crop well into early winter. You can stir fry it or eat it raw like lettuce, but it's far tastier than lettuce.

6 Jul, 2009


Hello, I recently planted Chinese cabbage (napa) that has the same issue, prickly leaves. I thought there was something wrong with the plants. This type of napa cabbage is spread out, not like the ones in the store where the cabbage leaf is bundled tightly together. I was looking to see if anyone else had this problem. I plan to stir fry the cabbage once it is large enough to harvest. Thank you for the information. Jeanie

16 Mar, 2017


I grew a variety similar to what you guys are talking about. I WOULD hesitate to eat it raw. However, some form of cutworm or other worm always crawls up into the heart of my cabbage from the dirt and eats it from the inside out. GGRRRR! That did not happen with the "spiny" variety, whereas it did with the other variety I grew. So I have been trying to find out what varieties "have" spines so I can alleviate my worm problem. The worms are so big and eat the newly growing heart so Bt is not very effective against them. I'm using it for Kim Chi.

14 Feb, 2018

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