Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
October, 2001
Regional Report

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Florida Broadleaf mustard is popular because it?s tasty, productive, and the smooth leaves are easy to clean.

Mighty Mustard

How can something so easy to grow be so good for you and tasty, too? Mustard greens (Brassica juncea) start growing as soon as the seeds hit the ground, and they don't stop until hard freezes turn the plants to mush. This is good reason to gather your mustard greens while ye may, but there's more to the story. If you have mustard greens to spare, turn them under as a soil-boosting cover crop.

Gourmet Greens

Raw mustard greens are bitter and coarse, but cooking brings out their gentler nature. When well wilted, mustard greens retain their full-bodied flavor, tempered with a smooth texture that finds its ideal accent in a nugget of butter or a splash of sweet balsamic vinegar. Mustard greens are a fantastic source of vitamins A and C, fiber, and those mysterious antioxidants we all want to eat every chance we get. Through the ages, mustard greens also have earned a reputation for being good for arthritis and rheumatism, which makes good sense considering their nutritional assets.

Productivity Plus

In our region, about the only problem growing mustard greens is that they produce more greens that we are able to eat. This is especially true of fall crops, which get huge and leafy, and never rush into flowering the way the plants tend to do when grown in the spring. But even if you don't eat all your mustard greens, your garden soil will. Shortly before nights are expected to drop below 25 degrees, chop up whatever mustard you have left standing with a sharp spade, and turn it under. Although your mustard may stay alive in temperatures lower than this, the leaves will be badly damaged.

The chopped leaves will be completely decomposed by mid-spring, enriching the soil with home-grown organic matter.

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