The Mystery of Mustard Greens

Thanks to our high tunnel, Mustard Greens are already in season at Sunny Hill Farm.  These hardy, spicy greens have a long season, as they grow in both chilly weather and heat, and they are relatively free from pests and diseases.  They are very easy to grow.  Many people seem unsure, however, about how to eat them.

(We are referring to the greens here.  The condiment “prepared mustard” is made with ground-up seeds from the mustard plant.)

Giant Red Mustard

Mustard greens have a unique spicy, radish-y flavor that diminishes only slightly when cooked.  They come in a few different varieties of shape and color.  We like to grow two types, the broad-leaved ‘Giant Red’ type, and the feathery ‘Ruby Streaks’ variety.  Giant Red is excellent both raw and for cooking, while the fronds of Ruby Streaks add heft and texture to your raw dishes.

Ruby Streaks

Mustard Greens can be enjoyed raw in salads, or sauteed, braised or boiled to cook.

To prepare them, remove the stems and layer whole in your pan or chop.

They can be sauteed in some olive or other oil, salt, garlic, onion, whatever you like for flavor.

To braise: Bring 4 cups water or stock, and 1 tsp salt to boil in a med pan or skillet with lid. Add about 1 lb mustard leaves, turning with tongs until they wilt down enough to fit in the pan.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy,  about 10 mins.  Drain and serve with butter, vinegar, whatever you like.

For an extra-yummy treat, fry about 6 slices of bacon in the pan before adding the greens and cook down and directed.

Mustard Greens with Chickpeas and Curry (from The Joy Of Cooking, 1997 ed.)

In a large skillet, heat:

2 Tbs melted butter, ghee or veg oil

Add:

2 med onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Cook, stirring over med heat until onions are softened, about 5 mins.

Stir in:

1 lg bunch (about 12 oz) prepared greens

Cook until wilted, about 15 mins.  Stir in:

1 Tbs mild curry powder

1/2 tsp both ground ginger and ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

1/4 cup chicken or veggie stock, or water

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer  and add:

1lb cooked chick peas

14 oz diced tomatoes with juice

1/2 tsp salt

Cook, stirring often, til greens are tender, about 15 mins.

Serve as a side dish, or over rice for dinner for two.

Mustard greens are super healthy.  They are quite high in vitamin A and have a good dose of C as well. And all greens are a terrific source of iron and calcium.

Add some color, zip and a nutritional boost to your meals by adding in some Mustard Greens.  When you fall in love with them, you’ll find them an easy addition to your garden as well! 🙂

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Chive Alive!

One of the first plants to come up in the Spring is the humble little Chive.   That tasty grass-looking herb with the mild onion flavor.

This member of the Allium genus is easy to grow and is often the first success of a fledgling perennial herb garden.  It grows in a clump of tiny bulbits, which start out as white at the soil line but quickly turn green as you travel up the stem.  The bulbits send out fresh growth early each Spring, with beautiful onion-scented purple flowers soon after.  These flowers attract many pollinators, and they will soon turn pale and papery, full of angular black seeds which are easily collected or shaken out to resow.  It is easy to reproduce chives by dividing the bulbits as well, so if you have a friend growing them, they will likely be happy to share some.

This herb is well-known for its mild onion flavor that is most commonly seen with sour cream atop a baked potato.  But the Chive’s delicious flavor can add real pick-me-up to a variety of dishes, salads, and even condiments.  Chop or snip raw chives on to dishes for a fresh onion pop of flavor, or add to blended salad dressings, dips, hummus, anywhere you like a little zip.  The beautiful purple blooms are edible, too, and their unique oniony flavor makes a beautiful addition to salads, quiches, and salsas.

Chives are plentiful in the Spring, and will continue to grow after the blooms fade in May, but the growth the rest of summer is not as vigorous.  Cutting the plants back to about an inch high after the flowers drop can help.  Chives are very easy to dehydrate to use later; they can be cut long and hung to dry or placed in a dehydrator, they left whole or chopped.  They can also be cut to size of choice and frozen with water in ice cube trays.  Pop the cubes out when done and store in a zip-lock freezer bag.

Chives have a cousin called Garlic Chives.  They are very similar in flavor and habit, except the leaves on Garlic Chives are a bit flat, and the flowers are white instead, and the blooms a bit more spread out on the stem.  They appear almost like the shower of fireworks.  And yes, the flavor is a bit more toward garlic.

If you already have Chives, they are likely growing and close to blooming by now.  If not, now is the time to find some and put some in your herb garden.  They also grow well in a pot on your windowsill.  Either way, chives are a great herb for beginners and seasoned gardeners alike, easy to grow and so many ways to use.  A great way to sneak a little “fresh vegetable” into your everyday dishes.

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