Mustard greens tend to be under-appreciated outside the Deep South.
But, don't let that deter you: if you like mustard, you'll love mustard greens. Plus, its cancer-fighting properties are just as strong as those of its cousins kale, cabbage and broccoli. You can add a flavorful, spicy kick to your diet when you learn how to grow mustard greens, which thrive in cool spring and fall weather.
Raw mustard greens pack a peppery dijon-like wallop in salads. They're also fantastic when lightly steamed, stir-fried or sauteed, and are a valuable garden plant simply for their frilly beauty, with some displaying dark green leaves and others showing off deep-purple veiny leaves contrasting perfectly with pale green stems.
Like other greens, mustard greens contain plenty of vitamins K, C and E as well as folate and beta-carotene. They come in just behind collard greens and kale in their cholesterol-lowering abilities, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and protect against cardiovascular problems.
Types of mustard greens
Vibrant mustard greens are hardy annuals that come in many varieties, mostly differing in maturity dates and leaf coloring as well as depth of spice. Some, like Osaka Purple, are mild, while other varieties have a bolder flavor. Oriental varieties including kai-choi and komatsuma have thick edible stalks that are sometimes pickled, and Red Giant and Pink Petiole Mix add a shock of leafy color to ornamental beds.
How to plant mustard greens
- Prepare a garden bed with well-drained, loosened soil.
- Plant 2-3 mustard seeds one-third to one-half-inch deep, 6 inches to 1 foot apart, as early as the soil can be worked in spring or directly after the hottest part of the summer season for a fall crop.
- Fill pots with loose soil and plant 2-3 seeds in each one, if you prefer container planting.
- Water the soil and keep it moist throughout the growing season. It's best to use a drip or soaker system to prevent the greens from getting wet, which can lead to a problem known as "common downy mildew."
- Thin seedlings to 1 plant per 6 inches to 1 foot.
- Weed the garden bed continuously to prevent other plants from stealing nutrients from mustard greens, which don't compete well with weeds.
- Prevent damage from pests by picking off any small caterpillars, worms or aphids that you spot on the plants.
- Harvest mustard greens continuously throughout the season by clipping a few leaves as needed and leaving the rest of the plant in the ground.
- Choose leaves that are 3-4 inches in length for best flavor. Avoid any leaves that look yellowed or unhealthy.
- Use scissors or a knife rather than pulling the leaves to avoid damaging the plant.
- Store unwashed mustard greens in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for about three days after harvesting.
- Pull and compost the plants once hot weather arrives in the summer, as mustard greens become tough and bitter.