Vegetables – Why do Chinese grocers advise cutting and discarding flowers in Chinese vegetables


Many times when buying Kai Lan:

Kai Lan

and Choi Sum

Choi Sum

Chinese shop staff heartily say

Cut flowers. Don't eat them. Flowers have insects.

  1. Are they correct? How do the flowers harm you?

  2. Were they referring to pollinators that land on those flowers?

Best Answer

I would say there may be more insects in the flowers, but that is not a big deal. The ones not removed by normal washing or possibly a saltwater rinse will mostly at least be tiny ones attracted by the flowers and will not affect quality and taste. Some would even callously call it extra protein. IMO, the real issue with these types of plants having flowers is that the plant is bolted. Most if not all of these vegetables are best quality when harvested before they bloom. Any bolting would normally mean the plant was beyond prime condition when harvested or was grown under stress, too hot, too cold, too crowded, not enough water are typical causes of early bolting. The entire plant may be fine, but sometimes will be tougher or bitter and the flowers and stem on many are bitter and tough and not what you are looking for. They often will have a very different taste than the rest of the plant. In some cases, you might like that taste, but in most it is not what you were expecting. For instance, in Pak Choi I have had it with flowering. Not only was the stem to the flowers stringy, it had a latex like with liquid which was off-putting. The flower itself had a strong mustard taste which was not at all like the leaf and stem which is what was intended.