Leaf mustard comes in an array of shapes and sizes; they vary from small leaved to large; from yellow-green to purple, to deep, dark green. Some varieties have softly rounded, very large leaves with very thick stems, others are more delicate with thin, deeply serrated, smaller leaves and thin stems
If you want colour, choose the beautiful Mustard ‘Red Frills’. True to its name, the attractive and sweet leaves are finely serrated when young, then look more like mizuna when mature. The fringed burgundy-red leaves add the taste of mustard and horseradish to salads, stir fries and sandwiches.
Oriental mustards pack a peppery dijon-like wallop in salads. They are fantastic when lightly steamed, stir-fried or sautéed. Use in bean soups, julienned, or as a substitute for spinach in your quiche. They are also delicious with cold beef dishes instead of horseradish or simply add to salads for a unique flavour.
They can be sown little and often and eaten as mini micro greens or used as a garnish. Alternately grow until the leaves are a few centimetres in size and use in a baby leaf salad and mesclun mixes. Left to grow to full size, whole heads can be harvested, or pick individual mature leaves one or two at a time and the plant will continue to grow.
Easy to grow, Mustard Red Frills is a good-looking plant, the large, red-tinged leaves intensifying to deep burgundy purple in cold weather. In the garden it looks gorgeous whether partnered with flowers, herbs and other vegetables. It is both ‘cold and bolt’ tolerant and often to be found in the ornamental garden or the potager, where it adds colour from autumn right through to spring. As a final encore, if allowed to flower, it has incredible yellow flowers that emerge as a tall spike out of its centre.
Mustard grows best in a sunny position in a fertile soil. It can be sown directly into open ground or can be planted into grow bags. If grown for babyleaf it can be sown into small containers or even windowboxes. Choose a well-drained container that's at least 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) deep. Containers may need to be watered a couple times a day when temperatures begin to warm. If growing micro-greens, seeds can be planted in shallow flats and harvested about 10 to 21 days after planting. If given adequate light, they can also be grown indoors during the winter.
Sowing: Sow under cover February to May or sow direct April to October
Mustard seeds can be sown practically year round. Plant little and often, every two weeks for continuous supply. Seeds germinate in 5 to 10 days at temperatures between 7 to 30°C (45 to 85°F)
Sow sparingly in shallow drills 6 to 12mm (¼ to ½ in) deep. Space seeds 2.5cm (1in) apart for cut-and-come-again salad or 20 to 25cm (8 to 10in) for whole plant production. Adequate spacing is most important when growing plants to full size. This is easy to accomplish by simply thinning plants as they begin to get crowded in the garden.
Mustard greens are primarily a cool season vegetable and are at their peak in late spring to early summer. Keep well watered especially in summer. Hot weather causes the plants to bolt and their greens to turn unpleasantly bitter.
An autumn crop is often planted because mustard is frost-resistant and easily overwinters in temperate areas. Protect late sowings with cloches and the plants will keep growing throughout the winter and continue to grow vigorously when temperatures warm and daylight increases.
Harvesting: 20 days for babyleaf, 45 days to maturity
Mustard plants can be harvested for baby leaf once the leaves are 5cm (2in) tall. For milder leaves, pick young, they are best cropped at around 15cm (6in) for salads.
The plants will grow to around 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) tall. Mature leaves can be boiled or steamed or braised in a pot with a little butter and garlic.
Use scissors or a knife rather than pulling the leaves to avoid damaging the plant. Keep picking regularly to prevent flowers running to seed. Pull and compost the plants once hot weather arrives in the summer, as mustard greens become tough and bitter.
Mustard greens are equally at home raw, cooked and even fermented and pickled. Young leaves can be tossed into summer salads; their peppery bite adds a sharp note with more mild lettuces.
Older, larger mustard greens are better cooked. As with most oriental brassicas, the mustard flavours strengthen slightly with age but cooking has the opposite effect and reduces any pungency. Because mustard greens are more tender than their leafy-green Brassica family members collards and turnip greens, they need far less time to cook.
Store unwashed greens in plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They will keep for about three days after harvesting. Wrap in moist paper towels for longer storage, up to five days. The flavour may intensify in the refrigerator during the longer five-day storage.
Mustard has been cultivated for centuries across Asia and Europe for both its edible seeds, ground and made into mustard (the condiment) or pressed for their oil along with its leaves (and even stems). Mustard is member of the impressive Brassica family which includes cabbage, collards, bok choy, kale and radishes.
There are several different types of mustard, some of which are native to central Asia, probably somewhere in the Himalayan region and some that are native to Europe.
It is primarily Brassica juncea that are eaten as greens, though it’s worth mentioning two other types: Brassica nigra - black mustard, used primarily for the condiment, and Sinapsis alba - white or yellow mustard, also used primarily in condiment-making, but also eaten as a green vegetable.
Ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed mustard seed as a paste and powder. In about 1300, the name "mustard" was given to the condiment made by mixing “mustum”, which is the Latin word for unfermented grape juice, with ground mustard seeds.
In Medieval Europe, courts and monasteries often employed a person, called a mustardarius, whose sole job was to oversee the growing and making of mustard. (from roughly the late 400s to the mid-1400s). The mustardarius would break apart brown mustard seeds, then add an acidic liquid like wine, vinegar or verjuice and some salt, to make a sauce not unlike what we now think of as mustard. The monastic communities would eat this with meat and fish, the latter of which formed a large part of their diet.
For centuries Mustard has been considered an elixir of sort; today it is used liberally as a ketchup. There was a belief that mustard played an important part in maintaining good health – it was considered ‘hot’ and therefore served with ‘cold’ foods to 'balance the humour of a meal'. It was also drunk (gulp!) and gargled to treat sore throats.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2 grams Average Seed Count 1,000 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 500 seeds per gram Common Name Oriental or Leaf Mustard Other Common Names Mustard Greens Other Language Names Kai Choy, Gai Choy or Takana Family Brassicaceae Genus Brassica Species juncea crispifolia Rubra Cultivar Red Frills Hardiness Hardy Annual Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Position Full sun or partial shade. Time to Sow Under cover February to May or sow direct April to October Time to Harvest 20 days for babyleaf, 45 days to maturity