Going to a local market can be an interesting experience, especially if you are looking for some fresh, local produce. The biggest difference between markets and supermarkets in China and those in the West is that here you can generally find only fresh, seasonal produce.
Which are the seasonal summer vegetables in this part of China? Apart from tomato and cucumber, undisputed protagonists of a fresh summer salad, there are many more interesting Chinese vegetables to find in your local market to help you through the hot summer.
Bitter gourd 苦瓜 (kǔ guā)
Bitter melon (or bitter gourd) is a tropical vine that belongs to the gourd family and is closely related to the zucchini, squash, pumpkin and cucumber. The Chinese variant is usually long, pale green and covered with wart-like bumps. This vegetable is very rich in vitamins A and C and can assist in reducing blood sugar levels. And, according to Chinese people, is good to eat in summer as it can prevent skin irritation caused by the sun’s rays. The bitter gourd can be enjoyed cooked or raw, and has a unique, sharp, and slightly bitter taste that works in many recipes.
Water spinach 空心菜 (kōng xīn cài)
Water spinach is one of the most popular leafy greens for hot summer days, and can be recognised by its long leaves and hollow stems. It is an excellent source of dietary fibre, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C.
The tender leaves have a sweet and mild taste and are delicious when stir-fried with garlic.
Wild rice shoots 茭白 (jiāo bái )
The edible portion of this plant is its succulent shoot (after the leaves have been removed). It has a crunchy, light and refreshing texture similar to bamboo shoots and has a hint of sweetness, which varies depending on the time of harvest. The wild rice shoot is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, and other really important minerals. It is commonly prepared by stir-frying with thinly sliced pork and is widely used in China and Japan, not only as a vegetable but also, for its medicinal characteristics. Wild rice shoot is believed to help with hangovers because of its vitamin content and diuretic nature.
Luffa gourds 丝瓜 (sī guā)
The luffa belongs to the cucumber family and is considered to be a natural anti-inflammatory vegetable with a good amount of antioxidants that help with inflammation and weight loss. Adding the gourd into your diet helps to prevent ulcers and indigestion. Luffa gourds can be eaten raw or cooked, similar to summer squash.
Yard–long beans 豆角 (dòu jiǎo)
Chewy and flavourful, yard-long beans, also known as ‘Chinese snake beans’, are closely related to black-eyed peas. They are one of China’s long-cultivated crops and are very common in Asian diets. These very tender beans can make a great addition to summer salads, either raw, steamed or sautéed.