DEAR CUSTOMERS, WE WILL BE PAUSING HOME DELIVERIES FOR THE REMAINDER OF OCT. WILL RESUME TUE 3RD NOVEMBER



Asian greens from our local farmer A-Tong

Local asian farmer

Meet A-Tong, he’s a shy guy in his 70’s and has been farming Asian greens for over 45 years.

We’ve been getting our Asian veggies from him for over 30 years now. He was camera-shy during our visit so we couldn’t get an actual shot of him but we did manage to sneak a few in when he was riding his bike around the farm and when he insisted on picking us fresh choy for our hotpot dinner that night.

Back in the day

He migrated from China many years ago and this has been his life since. He currently lives on his farm with his wife and youngest son out in Leppington, South West of Sydney. Chi (dad of Season’s) has been getting Asian veggies from him to supply all the big restaurants for all these years.

In the early days of Season’s, Chi would drive up to Leppington 4 times a week to get the vegetables to supply to his customers. When business was busy, Irene (mum of Season’s) would have to drive down to Leppington by herself then to Season’s in Chinatown and back home which was almost 100kms and often getting home in the late pms. The kids of Season’s - Danny, Jess and Vincent, also went out to the farms as kids and when asked about it they remember it so vividly to smell like chicken poo! 

A-Tong's farm

asian farmer picking vegetables

A-Tong grows a medium range of Asian greens including gai lan (chinese broccoli), choy sum, shanghai bok choy, baby bok choy, chrysanthemum leaves (tong ho), chinese lettuce, coriander, spring onions and a few others. A Tong’s choy is grown according to what his customers need. So if our restaurant customers require more gailan, he’ll start growing more gailan. Work is non stop for them everyday. 

freshly picked coriander

 

When asked how they’ve been affected by COVID, A-Tong’s wife just responded with a big smile - "We’ve lost more than a third of our business but you know, it’s all ok - I help you, you help us."

During our visit both A-Tong and his wife kept handing us things to take home, they were picking guavas off the tree, sugar cane, coriander and gai larn from the fields for us to have hot pot that night. All the produce was so fresh and added so much flavour to our already heart-warming meal that evening. The guavas were bright, juicy, and tangy, and the coriander and gai lan (bright green and dewy fresh) complemented our hot-pot meats perfectly.

farmers wife with asian vegetables

Choy - Cantonese for vegetables

Here are some of the choy we saw when visiting A-Tong’s farm. We asked A-Tong’s wife how long everything took to harvest, and she told us it generally takes about 3-4 weeks longer to harvest the vegetables in winter as it’s cold and the vegetables grow more slowly.

Gai Lan/ Chinese broccoli 

Gai lan farm harvest

  • Time to harvest: 9-11 weeks
  • What does it taste like? Similar, yet stronger flavour to broccoli (it’s in the same family as kale and broccoli).
  • Popular way to cook: Stir fry with garlic, Shaoxing wine, sugar and Knorr chicken powder. 

Choy sum

Choy sum farm harvest

  • Time to harvest: 5-7 weeks
  • What does it taste like? Choy sum is juicy, tender, with a peppery, subtle mustard flavour.
  • Popular way to cook: Blanched with oil and a bit of sugar and salt. The oil gives it a beautiful glisten. Just before serving pour over a mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce and oyster sauce. 

Shanghai bok choy

shanghai bok choy harvest

  • Time to harvest: 4-6 weeks
  • What does it taste like? Tender, crunchy, with a mild and slightly sweet, green taste. 
  • Popular way to cook: The Shanghai bok choy is so versatile! It can work in a dish stir-fried, blanched, and is perfect in soups, especially in the cold winter when you are looking for something hearty to warm you up.

Baby bok choy

Baby bok choy farm harvest

  • Time to harvest: 4-6 weeks
  • What does it taste like? Mild, fresh, grassy flavour with a slight peppery kick. 
  • Popular way to cook: Stir fry with oil, salt and garlic to bring out the freshness of its flavours. Baby bok choy is also great in soups.

Tong ho/Chrysanthemum leaves 

Tong ho farm harvest

  • Time to harvest: 5-7 weeks 
  • What does it taste like? Their leaves are tender and slightly crunchy with mild, grassy, and sweet flavours. The leaves have a bitter bite that become more pronounced the longer the leaves are left on the plant. 
  • Popular way to cook: Generally used in hotpot.

Chinese lettuce

chinese lettuce farm harvest

  • Time to harvest: 7-12 weeks
  • What does it taste like? Mild, crispy, a little nutty. 
  • Popular way to cook: Flash fried (fried briefly at a very high temperature) with oil fried dace. Flash fry them because it wilts in heat very quickly. Also great in hot pot! 

Farm to table

After understanding that Asian vegetables often take 2 months to grow, it really makes you appreciate all the effort that goes on behind the scenes for our choy to end up on our dinner plates. 

From farm to the table, we learnt that every element of delivering the freshest of vegetables with so much flavour requires a lot of methodology, monitoring, and dedication to the produce. 

As we left the farm he asked us if we wanted to stay for karaoke - you can't get any more Asian than that!! 

asian vegetables farm to table

We’ve been proudly supplying A-Tong’s and other local farmers Asian greens to the top Chinese restaurants in Sydney like Golden Century, Palace Chinese Restaurant, East Ocean and more for over 35 years. If those guys love our veggies, you will too!  

Shop now for A-Tong's Asian greens

Susan

Loved seeing the photos and hearing the story of where Seasons source their fresh choy (I learnt a new word today!). It was honestly so moving to hear about all the hard work and dedication of humble farmers like A-Tong. When the veggies are looked after so well like that, it’s a no brainer why it stays fresh for so long in the fridge. Great article- I’ll be thinking of A-Tong & wifey next time I devour my veggies!

Susan 04/06/2020
Emily

Beautiful post guys, this story really makes me think more deeply about where my food comes from – We forget there are so many people and faces behind what we buy. Thanks for all your hard work A-Tong and Seasons!

You have always helped us so we will help you!

Emily 26/05/2020
Karina

What a fun read and how CUTE is A-Tong!

Thank you – I enjoyed learning about the effort that goes into growing the choy I love eating and the people who have dedicated their lives to supplying us with fresh veggies. Looking forward to your next post.

Karina 26/05/2020
Daiwen

So heart warming, thank you for sharing their story, can’t wait to get to know the farmers a bit not :)

Daiwen 26/05/2020
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