I Mustard-Mit, Mustard Is The Best

The intensity of the summer heat has really put a damper on my plans for the fall garden this year. Ordinarily, I have everything ready to go by now. All of the beds should be cleaned up, compost laid, and seeds should be in the ground. At this point, the only thing I should need to worry about is keeping everything well watered. That is not what happened. 

What had happened was I let the whole summer get away from me a little bit. Triple digit heat for what feels like five years has limited the time I have to work in the garden. I have spent my time writing and languishing in front of the air conditioner, wishing I could go outside without bursting into flames. 

So I decided to cover a plant that I still have time to throw out there before it is too late. Today, I want to talk about mustard greens. They are some quick growing, low maintenance, delicious, healthy and versatile plants!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Any information found on thegigglinggardengnome.com is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition or are seeking medical advice, please speak to your doctor or other medical professional.

Plant Info

Common name: Mustard

Scientific name: Brassica Juncea

Family: Brassicaceae

 Mustard plants have been around and cultivated by humans for FOREVER. They are very nutritionally beneficial and super yummy. They are hardy cole crop annuals that even bring visual interest to a garden bed.

The speed that they grow as well as how low maintenance they are makes mustard plants a wonderful addition to any beginner’s garden. Also, they are tolerant of light frosts, which makes them great for fall gardening.

Mustard seed Photo by Avinash Kumar on Unsplash

History And Uses

There is written record of mustard seeds being consumed as far back as ancient Sumeria and India in 3000 BCE. Over the years, they have been used culinarily, but were also considered a medicine and played a role in cultural, religious, and ritual activities. In fact, the mustard seed is a symbol of faith in modern Christianity.

Ancient healers from Hippocrates to Nicholas Culpeper claimed that mustard could cure a wide range of illnesses from respiratory problems to skin conditions. Dr. Edward Bach’s Flower Remedies suggest that mustard could help alleviate depression and dark moods that afflicted the patient without reason. This is as opposed to feelings of sadness caused by external stimuli such as a death in the family.

Currently, mustard is known to be high in antioxidants, iron, beta carotene,  vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. Tests are being conducted to confirm the efficacy of mustard seed in fighting inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more. Further study is needed to determine the validity of these claims. It is interesting, though, and what their tests HAVE confirmed is that mustard does have a positive impact on human health and wellness.

Growing Requirements

Direct sow or start seeds at the very end of winter or summer for fall planting. These plants prefer full sun to partial shade with fertile soil and good drainage. Sow the seeds ½” deep and about 1” apart. Once they have grown a couple of true leaves, thin to about 4” apart. You can eat the plants that you thinned out. 

Be sure to watch them for signs of water and fertilizer stress. They can be pretty dramatic if their water and nutrient needs are not being met. 

I prefer to harvest the leaves a little bit at a time (being careful not to take more than ⅓ of the foliage) throughout the season. Remember, the young leaves are the most tender and milder in flavor. The bigger the leaves get, the tougher they get and the stronger their flavor. They also get a more intense flavor when the summer temperatures are high. That’s not necessarily bad, just important to note. Especially if you do not like spicy or bitter greens.

To harvest the seeds, keep an eye on the seed pods. When they are dry and have a light brown color, cut the whole pod off and store in a paper bag for a few weeks. Once they have fully dried, the pods will have split open. At that point, you can use the seeds.

Photo by Peter Werkman on Unsplash

Culinary

Mustard plants are so versatile. The entire plant is edible and can be used in a variety of different ways and in a ton of different kinds of cuisine. Add tough, mature leaves to curries, stir-frys, soups, and stews. Or saute them with salt and vinegar. Add bacon if you want to.

The tender, new leaves are great to put in salads and sandwiches. I also like putting them with mushrooms in my morning omelet. 

Mustard seeds are a great addition to marinades, pickling spices, and as a seasoning on just about everything. You could even try your hand at making mustard (the condiment). Homemade mustard is delicious. You can find recipes anywhere, but I like to use this one. 

Conclusion

Mustard plants are visually interesting, hardy, delicious, and super healthy annuals. They have a fascinating history and might have medicinal benefits. Overall, mustard definitely seems to be worth the cost and labor involved in growing it.

Resources

Check these out for more information.

Butts, Justin. “The History of Mustard Greens & Planting Them in the Coastal Bend”. The Bend, 1 Nov. 2021, https://www.thebendmag.com/the-history-of-mustard-greens-planting-them-in-the-coastal-bend/.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “mustard”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 Aug. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/plant/mustard. Accessed 26 August 2023.

Drost, Daniel. “How to Grow Mustard in Your Garden”. Utah State University Yard and Garden Extension, April 2020, https://extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden/research/mustard-in-the-garden.

Yan, Lin. “Dark Green Leafy Vegetables”. Agricultural Research Service U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables.

Das G, Tantengco OAG, Tundis R, Robles JAH, Loizzo MR, Shin HS, Patra JK. Glucosinolates and Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Mustard Seeds: Phytochemistry and Pharmacology. Plants (Basel). 2022 Sep 1;11(17):2290. doi: 10.3390/plants11172290. PMID: 36079672; PMCID: PMC9459965.

“Mustard Greens”. Cornell University, http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene2b9a.html#profile.

“How to Make Mustard From Mustard Greens”. HGTV, https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/garden-to-table/how-to-make-mustard-from-mustard-greens.

“MUSTARD, MEDICINE AND HEALTH”. Lloyd Library and Museum, https://lloydlibrary.org/mustard-medicine-and-health/#:~:text=As%20examples%20of%20its%20non,their%20skin%20and%20stimulate%20warmth.

Culpeper, Nicholas. The Complete Herbal. Evans, Richard, 1654, London.

Pleasant, Barbara. Easy Garden Projects For All Seasons. Taylor Publishing Company, P. 111.

Dollemore, Doug. Giuliucci, Mark. Haigh, Jennifer. Kirchheimer, Sid. Callahan, Jean. New Choices in Natural Healing. Rodale Press Inc, 1995, P. 266.

The Editors of Reader’s Digest. Family Guide to Natural Medicine. Reader’s Digest, 1993, New York, P. 330-331.

National Gardening Association. Gardening The Complete Guide To Growing America’s Favorite Fruits & Vegetables. Consumer’s Union, Mount Vernon, New York, P. 269.

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