The Mustards

While loitering around the farmers’ market on New York’s Union Square last week, Foreign Correspondent C.C. came face to face with a plethora of uncharted and, to her, unknown Japanese greens. Purchasing and repeated sampling ensued.

Mizuna
“One of the most famous and unique Japanese greens, they are mildly peppery in flavour. Usually eaten raw in salads or also good when slightly cooked” said the sign. It was definitely great in salads and sandwiches. Probably also delicious in stir-fry, but the delicately serrated leaves looked too crisp and pretty to be cooked, so I let them be. More info on this subtle green and links to some mouth-watering recipes here.

Komatsuna
“Juicy, tender, delicious and popular Japanese green for salad and braising mixes. Or used like Bok Choy in any dish. Excellent source for calcium”. This one was, by far, our favorite. The others where all delicious, but the way this one tasted like an extremely fancy hot mustard particularly touched my soul. It hardly wilted and retained all of its juice when sautéed. It made me salivate for salads. It made my soups BOUNCE. It is, oddly enough, related to the turnip.

Tatsoi
These were similar in looks and taste to Bok Choy, although they had a definitely more buttery texture and milder flavor. I would save this guy to be eaten raw or steamed.

Misome
“Hybrid Tatsoi green with a tender flavor and a pungent finish. Good for salads and stir-fry”. This was true, and tasted damn fine, like a mixture between Komatsuna and Tatsoi. Being a bit firmer that Komatsuna, it lent itself well to being just slightly steamed, sautéed or blanched.

Chrysanthemum greens
“Sprinkle the Chrysanthemum petals over soup (add it at last moment) and salad. The young stems are used in tempura, sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. The aromatic leaves are often paired with seafood”. I wasn’t as taken with these gently bitter greens as I was with, say, the mustardy types, but then I read that the Japanese dip the flowers in sake and eat them at the beginning of a meal to confer good health and long life. And who doesn’t want that.

We bought the greens from Lani’s Farms Inc., who sell in different markets around New York. Apparently a lot of these mustard greens are most commonly enjoyed in pickled form in their native Japan and China. I have yet to try. Have you? For those who remain dubious I recommend a visit to the Kitazawa Seed Company for more information and recipes involving these nose and tongue-tickling greens, or to order seeds  from them if you live stateside.

And the best part is that while researching all of this, we found this… It’s labyrinthine, but quite addictive.

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