Wait! Stay, while I move you beyond thinking about yellow mustard for your hotdogs or overgrown, overcooked, bitter, abused mustard greens and into the realm of mustard greens bursting with flavor and health. When I was a kid, my mother would send my sister and me to the garden to pick mustard greens–in high summer. We would invariably come back claiming that there were none ready, but she could look out the window and know we were fibbing. She’d cut the greens, wash them, and then cook them to death. The whole house would smell. They tasted awful, but I ate them because that was what a good kid was supposed to do.
Fast forward many years and a culinary lifetime later. I’ve had mustard greens lightly braised, and I’ve eaten them fresh in salads. And I liked them. Today I want to encourage you to like them too. As I understand it from around the web, a lot of people have been getting mustard greens in their CSA baskets and veg boxes. Hopefully this little primer will help you enjoy them like I do.
Why Eat Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are phenomenally good for you. In my post-operative state, the high rate of Vitamin K in mustard greens (more than 500% of the RDA!) is excellent news. Mustard greens are also chocked full of other vitamins, and they are superior for fighting cancer and aging. Like kale, they pack a huge wallop of nutrition for a tiny number of calories. I don’t just eat them because they’re good for me. I eat mustard greens because, properly raised and properly prepared, they also have a wallop of flavor.
Step one in thinking about whether you’ll like mustard greens is thinking about whether you like prepared mustard, which is basically mustard green seeds and vinegar. If you’re okay with prepared mustard, you can like mustard greens. The trick to enjoying them is eating them in season–that is, before it gets too hot outside.
Using Mustard Greens
You can eat mustard greens fresh or cooked. Just please, please don’t boil them to death.
- Fresh baby mustard greens give a kick to salads.
- A few days ago we had fresh medium-sized mustard greens one of my favorite ways, instead of lettuce on turkey-ham sandwiches.
- You can also braise more mature mustard greens. Just remember that you’ll need what Southerners call a “mess of greens”–that is, big pile–because they’ll cook down so much. Begin removing the tough center rib. Then roughly chop the greens and wilt them in a little hot oil (or bacon drippings, if you have any around) in a large pan. As the greens start to wilt, add a lighter vinegar (balsamic may be too strong) and, if you want, a squirt of honey or splash of soy sauce or sprinkle of salt. Some folks add tabasco too. Serve them as soon as they get tender.
- Consider add mustard greens to Asian-inspired stir fries. They’re classic!
Growing Mustard Greens for the Sweetest, Mild Flavor
Mustard greens naturally have a sharp flavor, but that flavor is balanced by a green sweetness when you pick the greens in cooler seasons. If you want to start liking mustard greens, try them when they’re growing temperatures have not exceeded 80 degrees F for the daytime high. Honestly, I do not think that variety makes that much difference in mustard greens’ sharpness, although some Asian varieties (mizuna) may be a little sharper. Mostly it’s the temperature.
A Few Recommended Varieties of Mustard Greens for the Home Garden
Mustard greens are incredibly easy to grow. Three versatile favorites in our household are red mizuna (the purple Asian mustard featured here), mizuna (a lacier leafed, more delicate Asian mustard), and Southern giant, a bright green, frilly edged mustard.
Do you have questions about cooking or growing mustard greens? Would you like to know some of the seed sources I use? Do you have a favorite recipe for mustard greens you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments area!
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me via comments for permission to use photographs.