Anxiously awaiting for the cold to break drives me crazy every January. The cabin fever resulting from being indoors gives me a chance to plan and plot for the coming year’s garden. It also makes me horribly anxious to get planting. So anxious, I felt it wouldn’t hurt to get a jump start on some herbs. Things I can grow in pots on my windowsill. The herbs have sprouted and with them my hopes for the garden.
This is the month to plant cole crops if you want to push the season, but the best plant in my opinion is Mustard. Mustard is an amazing plant to me. I get giant leaves and after it goes to seed, I find mustard growing in every nook and cranny around the yard by fall. I have some in a pot on my porch that have survived the cold of winter. I noticed one yesterday in the cracks in my brick sidewalk. So easy to grow and excellent for cold weather. Tasty too.
Mustard can be harvested young for salad greens, or for sauteing or stewing. Large leaves should be cooked in a good stock or with a ham bone. Flowers can be used as edible garnish. The seed can be ground to make your own homemade mustard.
Plant mustard in flats or in rows 1/8th inch deep. Mustard will last quite a while before bolting in cold weather. In warm weather, it can bolt in as little as 30 days.
This is by no means a complete list, but it should be enough to send your imagination soaring. I tried not to include hybrids, please forgive me if I did. Kitazawa Seed Company seems to have the biggest selection of greens out there.
If you want to try something different, make your own mustard. There are many recipes out there for mustard sauce. I have had a lot of luck with this one that I redacted several years ago for a food festival. Amounts of everything are really flexible. If you want to start with the ground mustard seed and experiment with the amounts of other ingredients you will probably find interesting combinations that suit your pallet more than this one.
- 1/2 C Mustard Seed
- 1 TBS honey
- 1/4 C red wine
- 1/4 C vinegar
- more wine as desired
Toast mustard seed in a dry cast iron skillet until it begins to pop. Grind it in a mortar. Add honey, wine and vinegar to make a thick paste. Thin as desired with more wine. If you prefer a sweeter mustard, add more honey. Substitute vinegar and wine as desired to alter flavor.
(Based on recipe in “The Forme of Cury” ca. 1390 Lumbard Mustard)
Posted in Gardening, Recipes, Vegetable gardening
Tagged city gardeining, city gardening, form of cury, garden, gardening, greens, greens recipe, mustard, mustard varieties, urban farming, urban gardening, vegetable gardening, winter gardening
This week at the international grocery store they had Taiwan spinach. I love this green! I lack the vocabulary to describe why it meshes so well with my taste buds. I was first introduced to it at a Sunday morning dim sum located in University City. Oh, Lu Lu, how I love your food. Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant makes some killer dim sum. (And they are one of the few places with bubble tea in town.) The ladies come around with the carts instead of a weird buffet thing like many of the restaurants here in the St. Louis area. You never know what is going to come around and be available which is half the fun. The particular dish that introduced me to this green involved steaming the spinach and dressing it with a soy sauce/ sesame oil mixture. Fantastic!
Amaranthus gangeticus (Chinese spinach or taiwan spinach)
This edible amaranth grows about 14 inches high, but can be higher when flowering. The seeds and greens are edible, but the flowers are not. This is a warm weather crop. Seeds should be germinated in the dark (with a row cover) at about 50 degrees fahrenheit. These plants will not stand frost or freezing. This green likes loose, sandy, and fertile soil. It can’t stand compacted soil so a good cover of straw or frequent hoeing will help it’s growth.
3 Ways to Harvest (about 6-8 weeks):
- Pinch tips and let regrow.
- Pull out whole plant when it reaches about 10 inches.
- Cut plant back to about an inch an a half above the ground to regrow.
This plant can put out a pretty hefty harvest apparently with proper thinning or cutting back.
I like this variety of edible amaranth probably best of all I have tried. It has a really satisfying and hearty taste. It also lacks the bitterness of some of the red tinged cultivars. So here is what we ate tonight (I had no idea what call it):
Chinese Spinach and Mushroom Grits Bake
- 1 1/2 Cups Grits
- 5 TBS oil
- 1 C diced onion
- 2 leeks, finely chopped
- one large king oyster mushroom (half pound)
- 2 TBS dry sherry
- 1 lb Chinese spinach, washed and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 10 fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped
- 1 lb firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 TBS lemon juice
- 2 TBS Pinoy Curat Spiced Coconut Vinegar
- 2 tsp sriracha sauce (cock sauce)
- 1 TBS Chinese 5 Spice
- 2 TBS Dark soy sauce with mushroom flavor
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook Grits according to directions and set aside.
- Heat 2 TBS oil in large pan.
- Add the onions, leeks, and mushrooms and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are caramelized. Set aside.
- De glaze the pan with the sherry, add the salt and cook until dry.
- Add the spinach and cook until wilted.
- In a separate skillet, heat remaining oil.
- Add the garlic and basil. Simmer until garlic is golden brown.
- In food processor, add contents of skillet, tofu, lemon juice, Pinoy Curat, sriracha, Chinese 5 spice, and soy sauce. Blend until smooth.
- Add tofu mixture to vegetable mixture.
- In large casserole, layer half of the grits on the bottom. Gently smooth vegetable mixture on top of grits. Top with remaining grits as completely as possible.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- When baking is complete, turn off oven, crack open and let rest in oven to cool for 10 minutes. Serve.
Now that gardening season is creeping ever closer, consider giving this vegetable a try. So good. Why not make a spot in your garden for some new and unusual greens this summer?
Kitazawa Seed Co.
and my favorite local seed company: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Posted in Gardening, Recipes, Unusual Vegetables, Vegetable gardening
Tagged chinese spinach, chinese spinach cultivation, chinese spinach recipes, edible amaranth, edible amaranth recipes, gardening, greens, greens recipe, grits, grits recipes, king oyster mushroom recipe, taiwan spinach, taiwan spinach cultivation, taiwan spinach recipes