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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Fast and easy to grow, mustard is perfect for winter gardens

High levels of vitamin A and C make its cancer-fighting properties just as strong as those of kale, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

IN A SIMILAR VEIN to last week’s mizuna, oriental mustards are another super-hardy green, equally at home in a salad bowl or stir-fry.  They are easy to grow and at their best in the cold winter months.

Mustards have a robust, often fiery taste, and typically a slightly coarse texture. They are incredibly nutritious with high levels of vitamin A and C, calcium and potash.  They contain compounds which are thought to have cancer preventing benefits, including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and natural detoxifying properties.

Sowing

You can sow mustard direct in the soil or in module trays for later transplanting.  I generally sow 5-6 seeds in each module in a module tray and plant out each little cluster of plants 3-4 weeks later.  The best results are from a small regular sowing every 3-4 weeks from February until September, but the late spring and summer sowings are often inclined to bolt.  It really comes into its own in the autumn/ winter.  I do a larger sowing in September to last through the winter and early spring.

Growing

As with most of the oriental greens family of veg,  mustard is versatile and there are a few different ways to grow it.

  • Grow it as single plants that are spaced 30cm apart and will grow up to 30cm tall with leaves harvested from it over a long period of time.
  • Grow it as a ‘cut and come again’ crop – where multiple plants are sown about 10cm apart with the leaves harvested when young.  Typically mustard leaves grow more peppery as the leaves grow larger (often inedible!).

Winter outdoor sowings might need a fleece cover.  Water in very dry weather or if growing in a polytunnel or greenhouse.

Harvesting

At some times of the year you can harvest sparingly as early as 4 weeks after sowing, particularly when you are growing for ‘cut and come again’ small leaves.  As the name suggest with a ‘cut and come’ again crop you can cut it back with a scissors and expect multiple crops of delicious leaves.  You can either harvest individual leaves by hand-picking, or cut with a scissors down to about 5cm from the soil.

Recommended Varieties

Osaka Purple, Giant Red, Green-in-the-Snow, Green Frills, Red Frills

Problems

It’s a brassica so in theory it should be included in your brassica rotation and can be prone to all diseases that brassicas get – in practice you don’t get many problems with it at all.  Slugs do like a nibble on the leaves.

GIY Tips

  • The versatility of mustard is highlighted by the fact that the seeds of some mustard plants can be harvested to use as mustard seed or make mustard and oils, while other varieties are often used as ‘green manures’ – fertilising the soil as they grow.  Use the leaves to bring some colour and fire to salads (whole leaf when small, and chopped when larger), but also in quiches, soups and stir-fries.
  • Mustard leaves will grow happily in a container, but make it a decent size on or you will be disappointed with the results.

GROW HQ

The home of the GIY movement and our brand new food education centre, GROW HQ, is finally open in Waterford city.  In addition to our 65-seat home-grown food café and shop, we’ve a range of growing and cooking courses happening weekly – for courses happening this month, check out www.growhq.org.

shutterstock_236164645 Growing mustard greens Source: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths

Recipe of the Week – Mustard Greens and Potato Soup

Another recipe from Joy Larkcom’s ‘Oriental Vegetables – The Complete Guide for the Gardening Cook’ (Frances Lincoln).

Ingredients

  • 275g mustard greens
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1kg peeled potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 glass of dry white wine
  • 1.5 litres of vegetable stock
  • 1 large pinch nutmeg
  • 100ml yoghurt

Directions

Cook the onion and garlic in a little oil or butter until soft.  Add the potato, wine and stock, bring to a boil and simmer until the potato is soft.  Use a hand-blender to bring it to a smooth puree and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile cook the mustard greens briefly, either by boiling in water or wilting in a little oil.  Chop the cooked greens coarsely and stir them in to the potato soup with the nutmeg.  Just before serving, whisk the yoghurt in to the soup.  Alternatively spoon a dollop of yoghurt on each portion.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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