A mustard greens salad was in order after a recent trip to the farmers market. I hit the jackpot with a medley of mustard greens ranging from the spicy red mustards to the milder peppery mizuna. They make for a beautiful dish with the different colors, shapes, and flavors. The apple cider-dijon adds just enough sweetness to balance the salad out.
As a kid, I hated mustard greens but for the longest time it seemed like we had bunches and bunches of them for days during the Texas fall and winter seasons. Mustards are somewhat spicy and bitter. I swear of all the different types of greens we ate, outside of dandelion they taste the most like grass. I should know cause I was eating grass like the kid in the Eddie Murphy movie The Golden Child.
My grandfather was a huge fan of mustard greens, so we all were cursed. I never complained, I just emulated cause he was the Dude. I just figured since he liked them, there must be a good reason, so if it was good enough for him, it was great for me. Howver my facial expressions said otherwise on every bite. Sunday dinner with mustard greens on deck meant I had 30 minutes of bitter beer face as I put those bad boy greens down slowly, big gulping each forkful.
At least I had Madear’s sweet tea laced with fresh lemon juice to wash it all down. But when Pops died right as I was entering manhood, my bitter beer face took on a different meaning. For the longest time whenever I crossed paths with mustard greens, I looked at them bitterly and in their own way they returned the favor.
Needless to say I was a late bloomer in my love for mustard greens. In a funny way, I guess father knows best. I became fond of mustard greens in general but especially the Asian varieties during my Chicago years. I built several raised beds in my backyard and grew lots of different greens (collards, swish chard, black kale, etc.) but no mustards. Call it destiny though as I met an older war veteran at a vegetable seeds swap and he swore by these Asian Red Mustards.
I think I gave him the bitter beer face out of habit when I heard those words come out of his mouth, as he immediately began selling me on the positives to said mustard greens. Maybe it was divine intervention by my ghost grandad, but I took the seeds and planted them. Surprisingly they were easy to grow, and held up reasonably well in the Chicago cold.
What do Asian mustard greens taste like?
There were three types of mustard greens in the medley I had each with a distinct taste.
Green mustards are pretty common and similar to your standard mustards grown domestically. They are bitter and slightly pungent, but not over the top in terms of heat levels.
Red mustards are beautiful with big red leaves. They are very pungent; if you get the wrong bunch it could be like eating a spoonful of wasabi! I’m talking nose burning, forehead sweating, eyes watery as if you put too much wasabi on your sushi. I only use red mustards for salads as I prefer them raw. As soon as you cook them, they lose both their beautiful red hue and their spicy bite. You may be thinking losing the spiciness is a good thing. I won’t argue that, but I will say the flavor is distinct and adds quite a bit of character to a dish. So rather than eliminating the spice, figure out ways to make it work for you, which is what I did in this salad recipe. Mixing it with milder greens and balancing it against a sweeter dressing does just the trick.
Mizuna mustards are very similar to arugula in terms of flavor. Their mild but peppery and much sweeter than typical green mustards and the red ones. They are also smaller arugula or even a frisee lettuce. They can be eaten as is with stalks (stalks are relatively sweet) in tact, which makes for a good contrast in texture to the leafier greens in the salad.
What are the health benfits of mustard greens?
Beyond their peppery, rich flavor mustard greens are as light in calories as they come which gives them a great bang for your buck. Not only can you eat a bunch of them, but they pack so much of a health boost. According to an article on Spruce.com, one cup of mustard greens yields over 500% the daily value of vitamin K, 85% of your daily vitamin A, 60% of vitamin C, and high levels of folates, manganese, dietary fiber, calcium, and a bit of protein to boot.
Talk about a nutrient dense vegetable; think about that for a minute, that’s a whole lot of good for such a small number of calories. In simple terms these numbers and technical words mean mustard greens contain many cancer fighting antioxidants, help lower cholesterol, and improve heart health.
Enjoy this salad with red rice and shrimp.
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 bunches of mustard greens red or green or both, stems removed and leaves chopped
- 1 bunch of mizuna greens or arugula
- 2 Granny Smith apples peeled and sliced
- Kosher salt and Pepper to taste