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Mibuna: The mustardy Japanese leaf that's super easy to grow

The latest designer salad leaf has a peppery, nutty flavour not unlike rocket, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

WHEN I FIRST discovered oriental greens some years back and more experienced growers started listing off the various greens in this wonderful family – mustard, mizuna, mibuna, pak choi, bok choi etc – I often wondered whether they were just having a laugh and throwing out made up names for the craic.

But no, mizuna and mibuna are in fact a real thing – two very similar but distinct oriental green varieties. We covered mizuna here back in early November – it has a slightly serrated leaf. Mibuna on the other hand has a spear-shaped, slender leaf. It is not as vigorous as mizuna but it has a more interesting and slightly stronger flavour.

Mibuna is easy to grow and tolerates neglect and extreme cold with equal aplomb. It does not tolerate heat in the summer as well as mizuna does. Mibuna has a refreshing mustard flavour that will bring interest to any salad bowl. Like most oriental greens, mibuna can be eaten raw in salads or used in stir fries or soups.

Sowing

You can sow mibuna directly in the soil or in module trays for later transplanting. I generally sow 5 or 6 seeds in each module in a tray and plant out each little cluster of plants 3 or 4 weeks later. It’s a very reliable germinator (it only takes 2 or 3 days).

I find the best results from a small regular sowing every 3 to 4 weeks from February until September. I do a larger sowing in September to last through the winter and early spring. Though larger mibuna plants will tolerate temperatures up to -10 degrees celsius outside, I generally do my final sowing for the polytunnel (more out of habit than necessity).

Growing

Mibuna is a really versatile veg and there are a few different ways to grow it.

  • Grow it as single plants that are spaced 30cm apart and it 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.

Harvesting

At some times of the year you can harvest as early as 3 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 a second, fourth or even fifth crop 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

Kyota, mizuna purple, green spray

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 it’s so quick-growing that you don’t get many problems with it at all.  Flea beatle can be an issue on young leaves but a fine net or fleece cover will help.

GIY Tips

In the summer months you need to keep it watered to prevent it from bolting, but because I sow it so regularly, I am generally not too bothered if it does bolt (just whip the plants out for composting and replace with new ones). Mibuna will tolerate semi-shade so is ideal for a shady garden.

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.

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Recipe of the Week – Stir fried mibuna with garlic and fish sauce

shutterstock_10051012 Source: Shutterstock/Hywit Dimyadi

This quick stir-fry side dish is adapted from a couple of Thai-style recipes for oriental leaves. The fish sauce will provide enough salt, so you shouldn’t have to add any extra. Serves: 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch mizuna/ mibuna, about 300 grams
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Thumb-sized knob of ginger
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1/4 lemon, fresh
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Wash and drain the mizuna/ mibuna. Roughly chop into 1-inch segments and set aside. Finely chop the garlic and shred the ginger into matchstick-like strips.

Place a wide and shallow pan or a wok over a high heat. Add the two tablespoons of oil, then the garlic and ginger, and toss around until golden.

Add the greens to the wok or pan and stir fry for one minute, stirring constantly. The leaves should soften but remain crisp. Add the fish sauce and stir, then sprinkle with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and black pepper. Serve warm or tepid.

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

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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