While they don’t actually taste like mustard, there are a lot of nutrients packed into mustard greens. A member of the mustard plant family, which also includes broccoli and kale, this plant is versatile and perfect for a hearty stir fry.
When to plant mustard greens: Mustard greens are a cool-weather crop and should be planted in late winter to early spring. They only take 40 days to mature so you can spread out your planting and have a long harvest. You can also plant again in mid to late summer for a fall harvest.
Planting Mustard Greens in Different Climates
Even though mustard greens are a cool-weather crop, they are actually native to Asia and North America. You can try them in a tropical climate, as long as it is a cooler time of the year.
To give your mustard greens a better chance of survival, plant them in partial shade.
Mustard greens need plenty of moisture. If you are going to try to plant them in a dry climate, you will need to water them daily to keep the soil moist.
Mustard greens will do exceptionally well in a temperate climate. They love cool temperatures and you can start them at the end of winter if the temperature is mild.
Because of the cooler weather, you should be able to harvest mustard greens throughout the spring and again in the fall.
Mustard greens can be grown in a continental climate but the growing season will be shorter. The winters will be too cold to start seeds early so you will need to wait until April to plant.
Then, the hot summer weather will mean an earlier harvest.
Mustard greens may do ok in a polar climate. You should wait until late to early summer for this crop as the temperature will be too cold in early spring.
Choosing Mustard Greens Seeds
Also known as Japanese mustard spinach, this variety has smooth leaves that are dark green and flat. The leaves are more tender than other varieties and can last into early summer.
As its name suggests, these mustard greens have curly leaves. If you consume them raw, expect a very spicy taste but this becomes milder when you cook them.
Instead of the traditional green color, this variety of mustard greens is actually purple-red in color. It has a milder flavor than other varieties, which is perfect if you’ve blanched at the thought of bitter greens.
This variety has tenders stems and leaves that have a frond look to them. The taste is slightly bitter and nice and peppery, which dulls down as you cook the leaves.
Benefits of Eating Mustard Greens
While they are often overlooked in favor of other leafy greens, such as swiss chard and kale, mustard greens can be eaten. They do have a bitter taste but when cooked down, they become more palatable.
Mustard greens are rich in vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting as well as bone and heart health. They are also full of vitamin C which helps to strengthen your immune system.
Furthermore, mustard greens are also full of antioxidants which can help prevent such serious ailments as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Plant Mustard Greens Seeds
Seeds vs Seedlings
Planting mustard greens from seeds is the most common method of growing this vegetable, as it is a very easy process. However, if you want to speed things up a bit, or aren’t sure of your green thumb, then you can also start with seedlings.
Mustard greens are hardy and are perfect if you want your garden to be an all-season area. Unlike other vegetable seeds, you can actually start mustard green seeds in your garden before the last frost date.
For most areas, this will be late March or early April. You can also spread your planting out over several weeks for a more continuous harvest.
Just be aware that once the warm temperatures of the summer hit, your mustard greens won’t grow well. Be sure to get them in the ground as early as you can to enjoy a full spring harvest.
Because of their cool weather nature, you may also have the opportunity for a second, fall harvest. For this to occur, plant your mustard seeds in mid to late summer, usually around the end of August.
Mustard greens seeds are fairly small so planting and spacing can be a bit difficult. Sow the seeds so that they are about half an inch apart but once they start to sprout, you can then thin them to about 3 inches apart.
As for seedlings, plant them 4 to 5 inches apart. These will be further ahead and will need a bit more space between them.
Plants will differ, according to their variety, so you can expect one mustard green plant to grow between 8 and 24 inches.
Mustard greens prefer soil that is moist but drains well. They like cool temperatures but are partial to full sun.
The soil should have plenty of organic material, such as compost mixed in with it to provide plenty of nutrients.
How to Water Mustard Greens
Despite their easiness to grow, the one aspect of mustard greens to be aware of is water. Without water, your mustard greens will start to wilt and will quickly die off.
Aim to add at least 2 inches of water to your mustard greens each week. As they grow in the spring, there is usually enough precipitation for their needs. However, if it is dryer out, you will need to add more water.
Once your mustard greens have started to sprout, you can add mulch to help with water retention.
How to Grow Mustard Greens
While mustard greens are relatively easy to grow, if you provide them with a bit more attention, you can make your harvest even more plentiful.
Mustard greens like cool temperatures so once the weather warms up, they can start to wilt or stop growing. You can extend the growing season by providing cover during the hot afternoon sun as the weather turns.
As long as you start off your soil with plenty of nutrients, you won’t need to add more fertilizer to your mustard greens. However, if you feel like the soil needs a bit more help, a balanced fertilizer will do nicely.
Especially in their infancy, mustard greens don’t like competition from weeds. Be sure to regularly weed around your seedlings.
Be careful as you do this as mustard greens have shallow roots at first. However, the more weeding you do, the better your greens will grow.
The most common pests to be aware of for mustard greens are aphids and flea beetles. However, they don’t normally infest your plants.
If you are worried about an abundance of pests, you can always install a floating row cover over your mustard greens when the plants are still young. Just remember that the plants need plenty of sunlight so you will have to remove the cover as the leaves start to grow.
How to harvest mustard greens?
The younger you harvest your mustard greens, the more tender they will be. Older leaves will be more bitter, which can be quite off-putting.
You should only pick leaves that are bright green. Those that are yellow won’t have the right taste or texture.
There are two ways to pick mustard greens and most gardeners employ a mixture of the two.
If you just want a few leaves for a salad or side dish, you can simply pick what you need. The plant will continue to grow and produce more leaves within a few days.
Alternatively, if you want a large number of mustard greens, you can then cut the entire plant. While it won’t grow anymore, you will have enough greens to feed multiple people.
If you don’t intend on using your mustard greens right away, you can store them in the fridge for a few days. Wrap them in a moist paper towel and then place them in a plastic bag.
Those that are nearing the end of their growing season that still have plenty of mustard greens left can harvest them all at once.
Blanche the leaves in boiling water for two minutes and transfer them to a bowl of icy cold water. Drain the leaves and place them in a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to six months before use.
How long do mustard greens take to grow?
Mustard greens do not take a long time to grow. Most varieties are even ready for harvest in just 40 days.
Because of this short growing time, many gardeners will plant multiple times to take advantage of the spring weather. You can also plant a second harvest in the fall.
Mustard greens have a tangy, spicy taste to them and while they can be a bit bitter, they are quite nice after being cooked for a bit. Plant your mustard greens in the early spring and again in the fall for a second harvest.