By Phoebe Lapine
What You Need to Know:
- Mustard greens are packed with energy-boosting, heart-healthy, disease-fighting nutrients.
- These greens are a delicious source of calcium, magnesium, folic acid and vitamin K, important for bone health.
- Raw mustard greens have a tasty, peppery bite, but you can mellow it by cooking them.
Alice Waters is a fan. Michelle Obama grew them in the White House garden. They show up in delicious cuisines all over the globe, from Taiwanese street food to upscale Indian. Meet mustard greens, which have the curly ripple of kale and the sharp bite you’d expect from something with the word “mustard” in it. Now is the perfect time to get to know them, since mustard greens are one of the few leafy vegetables that are in season even when it’s cold out (now through April).
As their name implies, mustard greens are the leaves of the mustard plant, a cruciferous vegetable, along with kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Studies have shown that, in addition to containing loads of antioxidants and minerals, mustard greens are powerful cancer fighters thanks to glucosinolate, a plant chemical that has anti-cancer properties (it also gives cruciferous vegetables their delicious bitter quality). Mustard greens are also associated with lower cholesterol, healthy skin and hair, and boosted immunity, thanks to their high levels of vitamins K and C.
Plus, mustard greens are delicious and versatile. If you’re a fan of spicier salad greens like arugula, try mustard greens raw. Unlike kale and collards, there’s no need to massage them into tenderness. Simply fold leaves down the center, slice out the center ribs, then shred or roughly chop the leaves. Toss with your favorite dressing and go.
If you like a bit of bite but raw mustard greens are too much, cooking them mellows their horseradish-like kick. Sauté in avocado oil with garlic and some chili flakes. Or braise them, which makes mustard greens soft and silky while maintaining their structure and some of their pungency. Fresh ginger complements the assertive greens, and a touch of natural sweeteners such as raw honey or maple syrup offsets their bitterness. Combine mustard greens with roasted root vegetables or crispy sweet shallots, like those in the crunchy topping for our mustard green casserole (recipe below). Try pairing them with heat-tamping ingredients like brown rice, beans or quinoa, or more neutral greens, like chard or kale, to give them balance.
Ready to experiment? Try swapping in mustard greens where you might use other leafy go-tos, like chard, spinach or kale. Bonus: Mustard greens can do double-duty as the vegetable and the seasoning. One thing to note is that mustard greens have a higher water content than hardier greens like kale or collards so if you’re using them in a casserole, like this Thai-inspired gluten-free recipe, a little thickener (such as cornstarch or arrowroot) helps bind the liquid into a creamy base.
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Thai Mustard Green Casserole with Coconut Milk
- 1/4 cup unrefined extra-virgin coconut oil
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 large leek, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 bunch mustard greens, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/3 cup whole raw almonds, pulsed in a food processor or finely chopped into crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil. Sauté the shallots over high heat until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon or spatula, leaving behind the oil.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the leeks, garlic and ginger and sauté until soft, 3 minutes. Fold in the mustard greens (in two batches, depending on the size of the pan) and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with two tablespoons water until dissolved. Add to the pan, along with the coconut milk, lime juice and salt. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
- If not using an ovenproof skillet, transfer the greens to a 3-quart ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle the crisped shallots and almonds over the top. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden brown. Serve warm as a side dish, or over brown rice or quinoa as a vegan main course.