Foodstuff: Japanese Giant Red Mustard Greens

Giant Red Japanese Mustard 01

There are dozens of varieties of Mustard greens used for culinary purposes. The descriptive appellation ‘greens’ is sometimes not entirely accurate, however, as the range of coloring varies from  very pale light green to a deep purplish-red, with all sorts of simple and variegated gradations in between. The variety you see above is one of the Brassica juncea sub-types which, although it is actually native to China, is most commonly known as Japanese Giant Red Mustard. These plants, pictured here, were grown by my wife as part of her current greenhouse project

Giant Red Japanese Mustard 02

Here is a closer look at a couple of the leaves. When the plants first sprout and begin to develop, they are completely green but, as they mature, the veins in the leaves start to redden until almost the entire leaf has a deep, slightly purple tinted red color.

Japanese Giant Red Mustard is a cool weather crop and has done very well in the relative chilliness of an arctic summer here in Iqaluit. Indeed, these plants were the first usable ones to come out of our deck greenhouse and will definitely be tried again next season.

Taste and Usage

Taken right from the planter, the leaves and stems have a very definite and pungent mustard taste with a peppery quality and just a slight hint of horseradish. Indeed, the strength of the heat was almost enough to make my eyes water. With even minimal processing, however, the strength diminishes and even just washing and then adding a dressing of some-sort results in a much milder taste experience. I tested a couple of leaves by wrapping them around some ground beef and grilling them after basting with a little oil and, though the result was very nice, the leaves had almost lost all the sharpness and could have been almost any mild green vegetable such as lettuce.

Basically, this variety of mustard can probably be put to the same sorts of uses as other mustard greens subject to the proviso that raw preparations are probably better than cooked. This results not only from the tendency to lose some of the taste experience with processing, but also because this type is less robust, with thinner stems, than others and thus stands up less well to heat.

Giant Red Japanese Mustard 03

Salads, or even a component in pickled preparations is an ideal use and it was my wife’s idea to use them in sandwiches as a tastier replacement for lettuce. In the above picture, you can see some cold-sliced steak sandwiches I prepared for lunch one day, using about three shredded leaves on each roll. The flavor was very nice although, with only three leaves, I ended up adding a little hot mustard from a jar as well as the pungency of the leaves by themselves was only lightly apparent. We still have quite a bit of the plant left to play around with as yet and I have an idea for using the leaves as a cold-wrap for grilled meats that I will be sharing in due course…

 

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