Mustard greens are the edible leaves of the mustard plant, Brassica juncea, also known as brown mustard and black mustard seed. All parts of the plant, root, seed, stem, and leaf are edible although the ground mustard seed of brown mustard is spicier than the more popular, yellow mustard condiment. The kind you know and love (or hate!) often made from a different type of mustard seed which is then colored with turmeric for that bright yellow color.
Mustard has been grown for its edible parts by many ancient civilizations all across the world and its edible leaves remain a food staple for many areas in Asia and Africa. In many parts of the world, the brown mustard seed is prized for the oil it contains inside, and thus has become a major edible oil used in Pakistani and Indian cooking.
Different cultivars (cultivated variety) of mustard greens have been selected for decades for their different parts. Some mustards are grown for their seed oils, as mentioned, while others have more exaggerated stems or roots that are used. American palates and diets tend to prefer leafy varieties. Here are some of our favorite types to grow:
Japanese Giant Red Mustard: large technicolor purple, red, and green leaves with a strong, peppery bite.
Curled Mustard: Different from collard greens, but also often used in southern cooking, curly frilled edges are the signature of this type. Here at Avalow we particularly love growing “Green Wave”.
Mizuna, or Cut-Leaf Mustard: These varieties have deeply dissected leaves. The variety Ruby Streaks is a winter garden staple with its delicate lacy red leaves.
Pretty much all varieties of mustards pack a peppery punch. The immature baby leaves are delicious eaten fresh, but if your palate is picky cooking mustard greens can help tone down their flavor. Mustard greens pair well with other strong flavors like garlic, ginger, and lemon.
Along with that flavor comes “superfood” benefits (and we don’t use that term lightly). One serving size of mustard greens (which is only 1 cup chopped, raw) contains over one third of your daily value vitamin A, two thirds of your daily value vitamin C, and over 500% the daily value of vitamin K. Mustard greens also have the mineral manganese, and several antioxidants, and dietary fiber. A powerhouse of health-- hence, “superfood”.
Here in Sonoma county, our hot Summers cause mustards to bolt. They are one of the more temperature sensitive plants and often the first “weed” you see to flower (bolt) in the spring with bright yellow flowers. It’s best to treat mustard as a cool weather plant and wait to plant it until average daily highs are below 75℉. Mustard plants can withstand light frosts and will even sweeten in flavor, like many brassicas, during cold spells.
Mustard plants are incredibly healthful, with “superfood” level densities of nutrients, and are versatile in use, making them a staple in diets all around the world.