We had been growing these large and lovely Red Giant Mustard Greens in the tub garden and I finally had the time to harvest them. I’d never tried one before but they were such a nice shade of green… so I popped a leaf into my mouth and immediately thought I might need to go to the hospital. My head was on fire with the overwhelming taste of MustardPain. Is this even food? It tastes more like something you would grind down into a cleaning product. So, when my eyes stopped watering, I made some inquiries…
The first thing I happened upon was that mustard greens are sometimes grown as a type of green manure. This sounded about right, based on what I had just tasted. Blech. But it’s not quite how it sounds. The mustard greens are used this way in organic farming to act as sort of a living mulch which will stop weeds from growing through. Then, when they are fully grown, they’ll be cut down and left in place to continue to form a natural weed barrier as they decompose until they eventually are tilled under at the end of the season. In this scenario though, no one eats them, so it didn’t help me much. I know someone eats these things…
The next stop was my sister-in-law. She and my brother have a wonderful organic outdoor garden out in Missouri where they grow all kinds of things including mustard greens. In fact, that’s what inspired me to plant these devil leaves in the first place. So I asked her how to prepare them and she suggested sautéeing them in butter with a little salt and pepper, á la this Food Network recipe. And in fact, it is well known to people that actually eat mustard greens that cooking them takes the sting out and brings the flavor down to a more civilized level.
Researching even more, it turns out that it is more common to harvest mustard greens at around 21 days, while they’re still small and tender, and they will have a milder taste. You can safely use these raw in salads and they won’t actually break your tongue. Or, you can let them grow to their adult stage (around 45-50 days), and they will be large and lovely but they will need to be cooked. Or, you can let them go even longer still, and allow the plant to flower and then harvest the seeds for a nice (micro) addition to salads, spicy Indian dishes, or even use them to actually make mustard. But don’t eat them raw at this stage – like I did that first time around – as, at this point the leaves are “increasingly tough and bitter” per many experts on the plant. These experts know what they are talking about.
Now, we not only eat our mustard greens on the younger, more tender side, but we also cook them, just to be safe. My tongue has mostly recovered , and I’m not making that mistake again.
- Botanical name – Brassica Juncea .
- Sun exposure – Part sun
- Soil type and pH – loamy, slightly acidic to neutral
- Light period* – 12 hours
- Water – Keep soil consistently moist but not wet
- Weeks to maturity – 3 weeks for baby size, 6-7 weeks for adult size
- Health benefits – Mustard Greens are a great source of Vitamin A, C and K, as well as Vitamin E and Calcium.
Mustard Greens germinate well and are easy to grow and maintain. Space them about 3″ apart. Not many insects bother these plants because they taste like cleaning products. When it’s time to harvest, don’t wait too long! Either pull up the whole plant or try the cut-and-come-again method where you take the outer leaves off to eat and allow the inner leaves to continue to grow larger.
And always…try a tiny bite before you commit to a whole mouthful.
Sunday Brunch Frittata
Maybe from this post you can tell that Mustard Greens might not be my favorite vegetable. But this Mustard Green Frittata is absolutely delicious and I even ate it as leftovers at work during the week. This recipe works even with very bitter mustard greens because first they get sautéed in butter, and then the eggs, cream and cheese temper them into deliciousness. That nice, peppery bite of the mustard greens is a great flavor to cut through the frittata.
This recipe is adapted from a Food and Wine frittata recipe made with 16 eggs. That recipe looks wonderfully fluffy and filling but we made ours with fewer eggs. After all, right now you can only get out of the store with a certain amount of eggs. No one owns 16 of them at one time. But this flatter, less filling frittata still makes for a great Sunday morning brunch for the whole family and is fancy enough for guests who might be visiting on Zoom.
Mustard Green FrittataCourse: Breakfast, Brunch
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
4 cups chopped mustard greens (stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped)
8 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- In a large ovenproof skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent.
- Add the mustard greens and cook until wilted.
- Season the eggs with salt and pepper, whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the cream.
- Pour the eggs into the skillet, tilt the pan so it the eggs are evenly distributed and cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes.
- At this point the bottom and sides should be setting but the top should still be runny..
- Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until the center of the frittata is set and slightly browned. Slide the frittata onto a cutting board.
- Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Also great as leftovers, reheated and served on a slice of toast.