Let the Top Vegetables for Good Luck Bring You a Healthier New Year

Sustainable Living

Certain types of produce and dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year for their symbolic meaning, which are believed to bring good health and luck for the coming year. The auspicious symbolism of these foods is based on their pronunciations or appearance. The selection, preparation and ways of eating mean a lot. Today, the Agriculture Officers of Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) conducted a public talk at the Central Farmers’ Market to demonstrate the health tips for selection and preparation of vegetables that are most widely consumed during the festival season.

Chinese cabbage:
Chinese cabbage is a popular winter crop and its name in Chinese (旺菜) sounds like ‘prosperous’ and symbolizes wealth. Although it is resistant to cold, it is prone to damage by insect pest and thus more likely to have pesticide applied during production in a non-organic farm. Added, the broad green leaves of Chinese cabbage are tightly wrapped in a cylindrical formation, which increases the chance of containing pesticide residue. The KFBG Star Ferry Farmer’s Market sells only organic, chemical-free produce. However, if you buy your Chinese cabbage from non-organic sources you should reduce the chance of consuming the residual pesticide by washing carefully – after rinsing with water, individual whole leaves should be torn off and soaked and washed thoroughly before cutting into smaller pieces.

White radish:
White radish is an essential ingredient for making Chinese radish cake, which is one of the most popular Chinese New Year dishes. The cake is pronounced ‘gao’ in Cantonese meaning ‘high’, and symbolizes making progress in the New Year. Although white radish is relatively resistant to pests, conventional (non-organic) farmers may apply synthetic chemicals to assure uniformity and the perfect outlook of their crops. The ones bearing a natural appearance and colour are usually safer for consumption.

The harvesting season of taro starts with the start of winter. As it can be stored for long time, it is usually kept for making Chinese taro cake, which is equally popular as a festive food as the Chinese radish cake. Like most root crops, the long growth period of taro makes it prone to the risk of pesticide residues. It is advised to purchase organic taro from reliable farmers or retailers whenever possible.

Lettuce (生菜) sounds like ‘generating fortune’ in Cantonese, which makes this winter crop an essential element for festive dishes (and even features in Lion Dances). Its relatively short growth period and resistance to pests make it less prone to the problems of pesticide residues. However, it is advised to wash lettuce thoroughly before consumption, especially if it is consumed raw in a salad.

Lotus root:
Lotus root sounds like ‘continuous’ and symbolizes abundance. Dishonest traders may bleach lotus root with chemicals to make the brown-yellowish peel look whiter and cleaner. Don’t be fooled by the chemical make-up and look for those that bear natural appearance and colour instead.

Red is regarded as the ‘official colour’ of the Chinese New Year as it is one of the three things (fire, noise and the colour red) that defeated Nian, a ferocious beast in Chinese legend. Tomato is a popular ingredient for all dishes to add the blessing for good luck. Since tomato is prone to pest damage, it has higher risk of pesticide residual problem. Soak and wash the tomatoes thoroughly in water for at least 20 minutes before consumption.

Established in 2007, the Central Farmers Market is held every Sunday at Central Star Ferry Pier. Apart from being one the best places in Hong Kong for shopping for organic produces directly from local farmers, it is also a popular ‘classroom’ for learning about crops in season and traditional cooking tips. Today, KFBG delivered a cookery workshop in collaboration with local farmers to show how to integrate the Five Elements of Nature in festive food with a wide variety of organic winter crops as ingredients. The recipes and more information about cropping seasons of Hong Kong can be viewed at http://www.lowcarbonliving.hk/eng/lowcarbonrecipe-eng.aspx and http://www.lowcarbonliving.hk/eng/SeasonalCrops.aspx.

About the Central Famers Market:
Date: Every Sunday
Time: 11am – 5pm
Venue:  Central Ferry Pier No.7
Organiser: Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, in collaboration with a group of Hong Kong organic farmers
Public enquiry: sla@kfbg.org
Website: www.kfbg.org/eng/events/central-farmers-market.aspx

Media Enquiry:
Cindy Luk, Communication Officer of KFBG
Tel: 2483 7270
Email: media@kfbg.org