Ingredient Spotlight: Mustard Greens

Mustard greens, according to a survey we conducted last year, are among the most feared vegetables. This is a shame because, although some may never warm up to their pungent bite, mustard greens' peppery flavor can add a wonderful dimension to many dishes. They're also highly nutritious and easy to grow in a garden. Read on for some mustard greens recipes and tips for taming bitterness.

Mustard greens are the leaves of the mustard plant (Brassica juncea), and they often appear in Southern cooking as well as Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and African cuisines. There are actually many different varieties of mustard greens, ranging in leaf size and shape and color from green to red to purple. The most common type in the US is bright green with a frilly, ruffled texture. This beautiful color and texture is another great reason to incorporate mustard greens into your cooking!

When choosing mustard greens, know that the smaller, more tender leaves of spring will generally be milder in flavor than the mature leaves of summer and fall. If you don't find the flavor of the raw leaves too harsh, try adding a small amount to a salad for a lively, peppery accent. To tame the bitterness, use a combination of heat, salt, and fat. We like mustard greens just lightly wilted, blanched, or sautéd to retain the bright color and texture, but they can also be boiled or braised longer to soften the flavor. Ingredients that help balance the bitterness include salt, soy sauce, bacon, prosciutto, toasted nuts, olive oil, or sesame oil.

Recipes:
Easy Braised Collard Greens with Bacon, from The Kitchn (substitute mustard greens)
Mustard Greens, from Simply Recipes
Balsamic-Glazed Chickpeas and Mustard Greens, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Mustard Greens with Chipotle and Bacon, from Gourmet
Four Easy Ways To Go (Mustard) Green, from Cookthink

Related: Eating Well: Tips for Cooking Bitter Greens

(Image: Emily Ho)

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Emily Han (formerly Emily Ho) is a writer, recipe developer and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food and herbalism. She is author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails (Fall 2015), co-founder of Food Swap Network and creator of Miss Chiffonade