Growing mizuna, mustard greens and komatsuna
With an agreeable flavour—somewhere between the mildness of cabbage and the sharpness of mustard, plus an added taste of spinach—Japanese komatsuna (B. r. var. komatsuna) is also called mustard spinach. Planted in late August, this is one of the most productive and easiest to grow of the fall greens. A cold-hardy, upright plant of slender round stems and broad green leaves, it can be gathered until the snow flies.
The beauty of komatsuna—indeed, of all the Asian greens—is they can be picked as single leaves or whole plants, from seedlings to baby greens to full-grown specimens. And if you miss them along the way, they are perfectly edible even as they form their small broccoli-like heads and open a few yellow flowers. All go from mild to stronger tasting as they mature. Without exception, they are nutritional powerhouses, rich in vitamins A and C, several B vitamins, iron and calcium.
Mizuna (B. r. var. japonica) is a leafy brassica popular in Japan, where the name means “juicy vegetable.” A decorative-looking plant with glossy, light green, finely cut leaves, it’s mild enough for salads and excellent in stir-fries. Grow mizuna as you would bok choi—in the same bed if you like—and thin in the same way, to 20 centimetres. This is a vigorous cut-and-come-again green, meaning the whole plant can be sheared with scissors to three centimetres above ground and it will regrow to be cut again four or five times. Individual outer leaves can also be picked.
Much more piquant, and downright hot if grown without adequate moisture, are the various mustard greens (B. juncea). An acquired taste for some, they’re best when harvested young and either steamed or mixed with milder greens in salads and stir-fries.