UM Organic Community Garden

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- 1284 County Road 10, Montevallo, AL 35115 -

University of Montevallo Organic Community Garden

- Mustard Greens -

Winter

Growing Mustard Greens


Mustard leaves are pretty, curly, and flavorful.


Mustard greens are fast growing, nutritious leafy greens. They are perfect for gardens and containers in both spring and fall. Although not quite as cold hardy as their cousins, and kale, piquant mustard greens do tolerate a light frost, which makes their leaves sweeter. In areas where there are no killing freezes, gardeners enjoy growing mustard greens all winter long. The mustard patch is a pretty sight in the cool season garden. The leafy plants are easy to care for and good companions to fall flowers such as Pansies.

Mustard greens grow in a rosette of leaves up to about a foot-and-a-half tall. You can simmer the big peppery greens or pick smaller, young leaves to eat raw in salads and sandwiches.

Soil, Planting, and Care


Mustard leaves grow fast and most tender in moist, rich soil. Sun is ideal, but because they make only leaves and not fruit, they are a little more tolerant of shade than fruiting vegetables like tomatoes. Enrich the soil by spreading 3 to 6 inches of compost over the area you plan to plant. Then turn it into the ground or raised bed with a digging fork. For pots, use a premium quality potting mix. It always seems early when it’s time to plant mustard, but it pays to plan ahead. For fall harvests, set plants in the garden 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected frost. In spring, you can start about 4 weeks ahead of the frost date and continue planting a little after.

Our plants are thickly seeded in their pot. You may set them out as they are, but they will grow faster and give you more if you take a little time to separate the seedlings. Gently tease the seedlings apart into 3 to 6 clumps. Be careful not to tear up the roots. If they don’t tease apart gently, you can cut the clump in half with a knife and in half again. Space clumps 12 inches apart for traditional mustard greens, 12 to 18 inches apart for Japanese Giant Red Mustard.

In colder climates, you can grow mustard greens under a hoop house covered in row cover or plastic to protect them from hard freezes. These greens are grown towards the back with kale in front.

Mulch with wheat straw to keep plants moist. It takes about 10 to 12 plants to supply two people with fresh greens plus extra to freeze and use during warmer weather.

Mustard grows fast, so you can begin picking leaves in about 4 weeks, when the leaves are 6 to 8 inches long. Left alone, leaves reach their full size of 15 to 18 inches long in about 6 weeks. To maintain the rapid leafy growth, the plant needs fertilizer. Feed with liquid weekly if you are harvesting often, or bi-weekly otherwise.

If your family enjoys mustard greens, consider planting every 2 to 3 weeks for successive waves of young flavorful greens growing into prime size.

Remember, optimum growth and flavor depends on moist soil. When plants grow under stressful conditions such as drought or heat, the leaves can become unpleasantly spicy for most tastes. Keep the soil evenly moist.

Troubleshooting


When the weather warms in summer, mustard greens will send up a flower stalk and produce yellow flowers. The plants should be pulled up at this point, but the flowers will make a beautiful arrangement.

Although mustard greens don’t have many problems, you will need to protect them from cabbage loopers and imported cabbageworms. Flea beetles can also feed on leaves. Floating row covers are a great way to protect the greens without pesticides, or you can spray them with product containing “Bt” (Bacillus thuringiensis), for the caterpillars, or insecticidal soap or a pyrethrin-based spray for the beetles. Clubroot is a disease that plagues mustard and other members of the cabbage family. Have your soil tested and apply the lime necessary to maintain a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8 to discourage clubroot. Also, change the layout of your garden each season so members of the cabbage family don’t grow in an area but once every 3 years.

Harvest and Storage


Mustard greens are not as cold hardy as kale and collards. If you expect a hard freeze, pick your mustard greens and refrigerate. A large harvest will cook down to a good-sized nutritious side dish.

There are two ways to harvest greens. You may pick only the large, outer leaves leaving the center to continue growing and producing more greens. Or you can treat the plant in a cut-and-come again fashion, cutting all the leaves to 3 to 4 inches from the ground and leaving the stub to re-grow. Remember, young leaves have a milder flavor for salads. Mustard greens tolerate frosts and brief temperature dips. Like other greens, cold sweetens their flavor.

What's New and Beneficial About Mustard Greens

The cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed mustard greens is second only to steamed collard greens and steamed kale in a recent study of cruciferous vegetables and their ability to bind bile acids in the digestive tract. When bile acid binding takes place, it is easier for the bile acids to be excreted from the body. Since bile acids are made from cholesterol, the net impact of this bile acid binding is a lowering of the body's cholesterol level. It's worth noting that steamed mustard greens (and all steamed forms of the cruciferous vegetables) show much greater bile acid binding ability than raw mustard greens.

For total glucosinolate content, mustard greens rank high on the list of commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables, and in one study, were second only to Brussels sprouts in terms of total glucosinolate content. Glucosinolates are phytonutrients that provide us with unique health benefits because they can be converted into isothiocyanates (ITCs) that have cancer-preventive properties. All cruciferous vegetables have long been known to contain glucosinolates, but it's recent research that's made us realize how valuable mustard greens are in this regard.

The cancer protection we get from mustard greens may be largely related to two special glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: sinigrin and gluconasturtiian. Sinigrin can be converted into allyl-isothiocyanate (AITC) and gluconasturtiian can be converted into phenethyl-isothiocyanate (PEITC). Both AITC and PEITC have well-documented cancer-preventive and anti-inflammatory properties.

WHFoods Recommendations

You'll want to include mustard greens as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy mustard greens and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week and increase your serving size to 2 cups.

We recommend Healthy Sautéeing mustard greens rather than using the more traditional methods of boiling or steaming mustard greens. Healthy Sauté helps to keep them from getting soft and watery and retains their flavor. Chop mustard greens and let them sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance their health-promoting benefits before cooking. See Healthiest Way of Cooking Mustard Greens in the How to Enjoy section below.

Mustard Greens, cooked
1.00 cup
(140.00 grams)
Calories: 36
GI: very low

NutrientDRI/DV

vitamin K922%

  vitamin A96%

  vitamin C47%

  copper22%

  manganese19%

  calcium17%

  vitamin E17%

  fiber11%

  vitamin B68%

  phosphorus8%

  iron7%

  vitamin B27%

  protein7%

  potassium6%

  magnesium5%

  vitamin B15%

  vitamin B34%

  pantothenic acid3%

  folate3%


Jump to

  • Health Benefits
  • Description
  • History
  • How to Select and Store
  • Tips for Preparing and Cooking
  • How to Enjoy
  • Individual Concerns
  • Nutritional Profile

    Health Benefits

    Unlike some of their fellow cruciferous vegetables, mustard greens have not been the direct focus of most health-oriented research studies. However, mustard greens have sometimes been included in a longer list of cruciferous vegetables that have been lumped together and studied to determine potential types of health benefits. Based upon several dozen studies involving cruciferous vegetables as a group (and including mustard greens on the list of vegetables studied), cancer prevention appears to be a standout area for mustard greens when summarizing health benefits.

    This connection between mustard greens and cancer prevention should not be surprising since mustard greens provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body's detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of mustard greens: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.

    Detox Support Provided by Mustard Greens

    The detox support provided by mustard greens includes antioxidant nutrients to boost Phase 1 detoxification activities and sulfur-containing nutrients to boost Phase 2 activities. Mustard greens also contain phytonutrients called glucosinolates that can help activate detoxification enzymes and regulate their activity. At least three key glucosinolates have been clearly identified in mustard greens in significant amounts: sinigrin, gluconasturtiian, and glucotropaeolin.

    If we fail to give our body's detox system adequate nutritional support, yet continue to expose ourselves to unwanted toxins through our lifestyle and our dietary choices, we can place our bodies at increased risk of toxin-related damage that can eventually increase our cells' risk of becoming cancerous. That's one of the reasons it's so important to bring mustard greens and other cruciferous vegetables into our diet on a regular basis.

    The Antioxidant Benefits of Mustard Greens

    As an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), and manganese, mustard greens give us high level support for four conventional antioxidant nutrients. But the antioxidant support provided by mustard greens extends far beyond these conventional nutrients and into the realm of phytonutrients. Hydroxycinnamic acid, quercetin, isorhamnetin, and kaempferol are among the key antioxidant phytonutrients provided by mustard greens. This broad spectrum antioxidant support helps lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells. Chronic oxidative stress—meaning chronic presence of overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules and cumulative damage to our cells by these molecules—is a risk factor for development of most cancer types. By providing us with a diverse array of antioxidant nutrients, mustard greens help lower our cancer risk by helping us avoid chronic and unwanted oxidative stress.

    Mustard Greens' Anti-inflammatory Benefits

    As an excellent source of vitamin K, mustard greens provide us with great amounts of a hallmark anti-inflammatory nutrient. Vitamin K acts as a direct regulator of our inflammatory response. While glucobrassicin (a glucosinolate found in many cruciferous vegetables, and the precursor for the anti-inflammatory molecule indole-3-carbinol) does not appear to be present in mustard greens in significant amounts, other glucosinolates present in mustard greens may provide important anti-inflammatory benefits and are the subject of current research.

    Like chronic oxidative stress and chronic weakened detox ability, chronic unwanted inflammation can significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases (especially cardiovascular diseases).

    Mustard Greens and Cardiovascular Support

    Researchers have looked at a variety of cardiovascular problems—including heart attack, ischemic heart disease, and atherosclerosis—and found preliminary evidence of an ability on the part of cruciferous vegetables to lower our risk of these health problems. Yet regardless of the specific cardiovascular problem, it is one particular type of cardiovascular benefit that has most interested researchers, and that benefit is the anti-inflammatory nature of mustard greens and their fellow cruciferous vegetables. Scientists have not always viewed cardiovascular problems as having a central inflammatory component, but the role of unwanted inflammation in creating problems for our blood vessels and circulation has become increasingly fundamental to an understanding of cardiovascular diseases. While glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate found in many cruciferous vegetables, and the precursor for sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate with important anti-inflammatory properties) does not appear to be present in mustard greens in significant amounts, other glucosinolates present in mustard greens may provide important anti-inflammatory benefits and are the subject of current research.

    A second area you can count on mustard greens for cardiovascular support involves their cholesterol-lowering ability. Our liver uses cholesterol as a basic building block to product bile acids. Bile acids are specialized molecules that aid in the digestion and absorption of fat through a process called emulsification. These molecules are typically stored in fluid form in our gall bladder, and when we eat a fat-containing meal, they get released into the intestine where they help ready the fat for interaction with enzymes and eventual absorption up into the body. When we eat mustard greens, fiber-related nutrients in this cruciferous vegetable bind together with some of the bile acids in the intestine in such a way that they simply stay inside the intestine and pass out of our body in a bowel movement, rather than getting absorbed along with the fat they have emulsified. When this happens, our liver needs to replace the lost bile acids by drawing upon our existing supply of cholesterol, and as a result, our cholesterol level drops down. Mustard greens provide us with this cholesterol-lowering benefit whether they are raw or cooked. However, a recent study has shown that the cholesterol-lowering ability of raw mustard greens improves significantly when they are steamed. In fact, when the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed mustard greens was compared with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine (a medication that is taken for the purpose of lowering cholesterol), mustard greens bound 34% as many bile acids (based on a standard of comparison involving total dietary fiber).

    Description

    All cruciferous vegetables provide integrated nourishment across a wide variety of nutritional categories and provide broad support across a wide variety of body systems as well. For more on cruciferous vegetables see:

    Spunky and soulful describe the taste of mustard greens that add a pungent, peppery flavor to recipes in which they are featured. Although they are available throughout the year, they are in season from December through April when they are at their best and most readily available.

    Mustard greens are the leaves of the mustard plant, Brassica juncea. Mustard greens come in a host of varieties that each has distinct characteristics. Adding these brilliant leaves to your food preparations will certainly enhance the beauty of any meal. Most mustard greens are actually emerald green in color, while some are not green at all but rather shades of dark red or deep purple. The leaves of mustard greens can have either a crumpled or flat texture and may have either toothed, scalloped, frilled, or lacey edges. Mizuna is one type of mustard green that is oftentimes available in stores. In addition to providing wonderfully nutritious greens, this plant also produces the acrid-tasting brown seeds that are used to make Dijon mustard.

    History

    Mustard greens originated in the Himalayan region of India and have been grown and consumed for more than 5,000 years. Mustard greens are a notable vegetable in many different cuisines, ranging from Chinese to Southern American. Like turnip greens, they may have become an integral part of Southern cuisine during the times of slavery, serving as a substitute for the greens that were an essential part of Western African foodways. While India, Nepal, China and Japan are among the leading producers of mustard greens, a significant amount of mustard greens are grown in the United States as well.

    How to Select and Store

    Purchase mustard greens that are unblemished and free from any yellowing or brown spots. They should look fresh and crisp and be a lively green color.

    Place mustard greens in a plastic bag, removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store in the refrigerator where they should keep fresh for about three to four days.

    Tips for Preparing and Cooking

    Tips for Preparing Mustard Greens

    Rinse mustard greens under cold running water and cut into 1/2" slices for quick and even cooking.

    To get the most health benefits from mustard greens, we recommend letting them sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit may be able to help activate their myrosinase enzymes and increase formation of beneficial isothiocyanates in the greens.

    The Healthiest Way of Cooking Mustard Greens

    From all of the cooking methods we tried when cooking mustard greens, our favorite is Healthy Sauté. We think that it provides the greatest flavor and is also a method that allows for concentrated nutrient retention.

    Heat 5 tablespoons of broth (vegetable or chicken) or water in a stainless steel skillet. Once bubbles begin to form add mustard greens, cover, and Healthy Sauté for 5 minutes. Toss with our Mediterranean Dressing which includes 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 medium clove garlic (pressed or chopped), 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Top with your favorite optional ingredients.

    How to Enjoy

  • Young mustard greens make great additions to salads.
  • Serve healthy sautéed mustard greens with walnuts.
  • Adding chopped mustard greens to a pasta salad gives it a little kick. One of our favorite combinations is chopped tomatoes, pine nuts, goat cheese, pasta, and mustard greens tossed with a little olive oil.

    WHFoods Recipes That Feature Mustard Greens

  • Curried Mustard Greens & Garbanzo Beans with Sweet Potatoes

    Individual Concerns

    Mustard Greens and Oxalates

    Mustard greens are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating mustard greens. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we've seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits—including absorption of calcium—from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content.

    Nutritional Profile

    Mustard greens are an excellent source of many vitamins including vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, and vitamin E. They are also an excellent source of the minerals copper, manganese and calcium. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, vitamin B6, protein, vitamin B2, and iron as well as a good source of potassium, vitamin B1, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folate.


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