At our Eco-Gardens we keep our salads and greens growing through as much of the year as we can. We often have to choose different leaves depending on the time of year, and plant them out successively to keep the supply going. One of our Japanese mustard leaves is called “Mizuna”. Its name means “Water Greens” and it is certainly not at home in the drier heat of Summer. It goes to seed so quickly with its yellow flowers and long seed pods. The stressed plant’s survival instinct in adverse conditions!!!
In the cooler months, though, Mizuna really comes in to its own. With its peppery yet sweet flavour, it features in both our salad and our stir fry bags this week. It’s growing lushly now the temperatures have cooled.
It belongs, of course, to the huge family of “Brassicas” all of which have, to some degree, the ability to protect their cells from frost damage. This means it will stay growing in our poly-tunnels through the whole winter. It will slow down its growth in the cold but will have a flush of growth in the Spring to fill some salad and stir-fry packs once again.
There is evidence to show that a lot of frost damage is caused by dehydration because the cells close down and are unable to drink in the water and stay “lush” and green. They will then go brown and die off, first at the tips. The other form of frost damage is when the plant cells are actually frozen and their cell structure is broken down into a pulp.
Mizuna is a hardy character, hardening off its cells so they can absorb water and protect themselves from freezing for longer.
When it gets very cold the Mizuna leaves do get frozen so they are brittle and break off like icicles. Luckily for us salad growers, they can recover quickly and be ready for salad again in a few hours!
Growing Mustard Leaves has many other benefits.
Here are a few:
- They are full of vitamins K, C and A and minerals Calcium and Manganese.
- They can make great winter ground cover.
- The glucosinolates which give them their bitter taste also give them resistance to pests and diseases whilst growing but also have been shown to combating cancer cells when eaten.
- They are also phytoremedial which means they can help remove toxic substances from soil and thus restore contaminated land.
Aren’t plants amazing?!