The strongest tasting of the so-called bitter greens—mustard has a sharp, biting peppery taste that can sting like a strong radish. Even cooked mustard greens will have a “bite”.
The best mustard leaves for eating raw or for cooking are harvested young and tender. Consider the mustard green a sparing add-on to a green salad or mesclun. Cooked combine mustard greens with mashed potatoes or puréed legumes.
There are western and oriental or Asian mustard greens. The western mustards includes curly-leaf or common mustard which has a frilled oval leaves and mustard spinach which has large smooth dark green leaves that resemble spinach.
The Asian mustards include mizuna, a Japanese green with bright green fernlike leaves, mibuna with narrow, strap-like leaves, and komatsuna with spinach-shaped leaves.
Both the leaves and stalks of mustard greens can be eaten. But both will become tough and more pungent tasting as the weather warms.
Local season. Mustard greens are in peak season from mid-winter through mid spring, January through April in the northern hemisphere.
Choose. Select fresh mustard greens that are plump and crisp and have a rich green color. Avoid greens that are yellow, thick or fibrous, pitted or flabby. The best mustard greens are harvested young and tender.
Amount. Allow about ½ pound per person. Greens will cook down to ¼ to ⅛ their original volume.
Store. Mustard greens can be kept in a tightly sealed plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to a week. Store them unwashed until you are ready to use them. Mustard greens can be frozen like spinach.
Prepare. Wash greens just before using in a large bowl of lukewarm water in order to dislodge sand and dirt. Then cut off and discard the stems. You can remove the stems by folding the leaves in half and ripping out the stems.
Don’t dry the greens before cooking. The residual water will help them wilt as they cook.
Cook. You can cook mustard greens in just the water that clings to them after washing. Mustard greens are mostly water so they will shrink when they are cooked. Two large bunches will serve as a side dish for four people.
Avoid cooking mustard greens in aluminum or iron pots as they will turn black on contact with these metals.
Serve. Use young, tender mustard leaves alone in a salad or mixed with other greens. Mustard greens dress well with a little olive oil and vinegar.
Serve mustard greens alone or mixed with other greens or root vegetables. Top with pot likker, vinegar or vinaigrette dressing, onion, hard boiled egg, stewed tomatoes, blanched almonds, toasted bread crumbs, bacon or ham, or combinations of these.
Flavor Partners. Mustard green have a flavor affinity for aged grating cheese, bacon, corn, cornbread, curry, garlic, ham, hot sauce, lemon, onion, salt pork, smoked turkey, and vinegar.
Season mustard greens with salt, pepper, onion, garlic, basil, dill, mace, nutmeg, allspice, mustard, parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme.
Nutrition. Mustard greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, potassium, thiamine and riboflavin. One cup (140 grams) of cooked mustard greens contains 21 calories.
The botanical name of curled mustard greens is Brassica juncea; of komatsuma Brassica campestris.