Gai lan is the Cantonese name and jie lan is the Mandarin name for a vegetable that is also known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale. It is a leaf vegetable with thick, flat, glossy blue-green leaves with thick stems, and flower heads similar to but much smaller than broccoli, another Brassica oleracea cultivar, but gai lan is in the group alboglabra. Its flavor is very similar to that of broccoli, but slightly more bitter. It is also noticeably stronger.
Key NutrientsChinese broccoli is a nutrient dense food which is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Chinese broccoli is also a great source of folic acid, and has a very high amount of dietary fiber.
Health BenefitsVitamin A – Vitamin A, when converted into retinaldehyde, is a vital compound for healthy eyes. Furthermore, vitamin A is believed to fight against cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Vitamin A strengthens the membranes of the human body such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts. It is also essential for the lymphocytes, or white blood cells, that fight infection once in the body.
Vitamin C – Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infections and scavenges harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. Vitamin C also helps to prevent respiratory problems such as asthma and lung cancer. Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure, and therefore lessen the probability of hypertension.
Vitamin K – Vitamin-K plays an important role in bone metabolism by promoting osteotrophic activity in bone cells. Vitamin K also acts to clot open wounds and prevent excessive bleeding. Healthy vitamin K levels lower the release of the glycoprotein interleukin-6, a marker of inflammation within the body.
Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12, or folic acid, helps to preserve neurological function and DNA synthesis. It also plays a key role in the health of red blood cells. The nervous system relies on vitamin B12 for proper function as well.
Dietary Fiber – Dietary Fiber stimulates digestion and peristalsis, helping to relieve indigestion and constipation problems.
SeasonChinese broccoli is typically planted in the spring time and reaches maturity in the summer months and fall. Broccoli is commercially grown as well, making it available year round.
Nutrition InformationPer 1 cup (90 grams):
Calories (cKal): 31
Protein (grams): 2.57
Total Fat (grams): .34
Carbohydrates (grams): 6.04
Fiber (grams): 2.4
Buying and StoringWhen buying Chinese broccoli, make sure the leaves are bright green and not discolored or wilted. Make sure to avoid Kai-lan which contains a lot of insect damage. When storing at home, place the Chinese broccoli in a sealed container or bag, and store for up to five days. Before using, make sure to wash under cold water for at least 30 seconds.
Best Way to Add to DietChinese broccoli is an extremely versatile vegetable. Before cooking, make sure to wash under cold water for at least 30 seconds. Kai-lan pairs nicely with a grilled piece of fish and rice, or makes a great addition to any stir fry. Alternatively, try steaming Chinese broccoli in boiling water for four minutes for a simple and delicious addition to any dish.
Chinese Broccoli Recipe
By Chef Woo Can