Star Ingredient

Star Ingredient: Mustard Greens

When I was a little boy I thought mustard greens were as bad as mustard gas.  I loved the mustard that I put on hamburgers and hot dogs but mustard greens?  Yuck!  I wondered how something so bitter could make my favorite condiment…but then as I got older and explored different types of cooking I started loving them more and more!  I rarely eat a salad now without young mustard leaves in it.  Heck, you’ve probably eaten mustard greens without even knowing it since many restaurants and stores use them in their salad mixes.  So how about that?  Mustard greens, a vegetable that I avoided at all costs when I was young is now the Star Ingredient of the Week!

Let’s Talk Mustard!

First and foremost, we need to point out that the mustard plant is in our most favorite plant family, Brassicaceae.  From there it’s broken into 4 subgroups and then divided even further because there are soooo many types of mustard plants.  When we talk about mustard greens we’re just talking about the leaf mustard group.  The leaves, seeds and stems of these types of mustard are edible and appear in so many types of cuisines.  It’s grown for food, as a “green manure” to act as a mulch to suppress weeds between crops and even as a way to remove heavy metals, such as lead, from the soil in hazardous waste sites.  Wow…that’s some plant!

Now Let’s Talk About Nutrition!

Get this…mustard greens are one of the Superfoods (nutrient-rich foods considered especially beneficial for health and well-being) since they’re low in calories and rich in fiber and micronutrients.

One cup of chopped raw mustard greens is only 15 calories and extremely high in Vitamins K & C.  It also has Vitamins A, B6 & E plus fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, riboflavin and other antioxidants.

How To Take Care Of This Week’s Star!

If you’re planning on eating your mustard greens right away, simply wash them like you would any other type of greens/lettuce with water and drain thoroughly.  If you need to keep them for a few days, gently wrap unwashed mustard greens in paper towels and store loosely in plastic bags in the lower part of the fridge.  They can keep for up to 5 days.  You can even freeze your mustard greens after washing & blanching them for cooking in the future. 

How To Prepare Your Mustard Greens!

One question most people have is how to get the bitterness out of mustard greens.  Use salt.  Salt is a friend to bitter greens, whether you plan to eat them raw or cooked.  You can bacon, ham, pancetta to help in this endeavor.  And there are so many ways to eat mustard greens…you can eat them raw, cooked, steamed, sauteed or simmered.  Prepare mustard greens like you would spinach but expect a stronger flavor and “bite”.   Chef Diana has a great Garlicky Mustard Greens recipe that she’s sharing with us this week so be sure to check that out after reading this!

So, there you have it!  Give mustard a chance and you’ll be rewarded with flavor plus a boatload of vitamins & nutrients.

-Johnny Kat