Mom’s motto in life was, “Always try something. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again.” As a child, I heard that most often in relation to food. I’d wrinkle my nose at whatever was on my plate (egg foo young, black-eyed peas, cauliflower, etc.) Turns out the only thing I really didn’t like were black-eyed peas (and -- in the spirit of Mom’s advice -- I’ve since tried them again and can tolerate them if they have jalapenos added).
That brings me to my latest experiment in food – mustard greens. I had seen these often at the grocery store, but had never attempted to cook them (or try them). Then one day this past fall, I was at a local plant nursery and picked up a bunch of vegetables to plant in my raise beds. One of my selections was mustard greens. I was really surprised by how quickly the plant had grown when I went back to inspect the garden late last week. So last night marked the premiere of mustard greens to our palates.
According to the George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation that doesn’t have any commercial interests or advertising, mustard greens originally came from the Himalayan region of India. They’ve been grown and eaten for more than 5,000 years. While they’ve been consumed in a variety of places (such as China), mustard greens are believed to have become an integral part of Southern American cooking during slavery since they can take the place of greens that were often eaten in Western African diets.
So what are the characteristics of mustard greens? In her wonderful book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison stated, “Light green, crinkled, more tender than kale, these greens have a hot mustardy punch. Remove the stems and ribs if tough, then simmer until tender, 10 to 20 minutes, although some cook mustard for hours. The longer it cooks, the softer its flavor becomes. Briefly cooked, it’s tender but spicy. Allow a 1-pound bunch for two servings.” I didn’t end up preparing the mustard greens in this way, and instead opted to sauté the mustard greens in olive oil with garlic, a riff on Madison’s recipe in another of her books, Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets.
Dad and I ended up liking mustard green, although Dad would have liked to have vinegar readily available to season the greens. His choice matched Madison’s recommendation (which I had missed during the preparation): “A splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon is often the secret element that brings a dish to life by heightening all the other flavors. This is true even with foods that are naturally strong tasting, like the more aggressive greens. That squeeze of lemon or light dousing of vinegar magically sweetens, softens, and sharpens, making everything taste better. A bit of hot chile will do the same.”
But what definitely got our attention was the health benefit from eating these greens. NutritionDataSelf.com gives this vegetable top marks for weight loss and optimum health.
“This food is very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol,” the website stated. “It is also a good source of Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron and Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, copper and Manganese.” In fact, one cup of unsalted chopped mustard greens that has been boiled and drained has 11% of your dietary fiber, 177% of the recommended daily allotment (RDA) of vitamin A, 59% of the RDA of vitamin C, and 5% of iron. And that one cup has all of 21 calories.
Furthermore, the George Mateljan Foundation reported the following benefits of mustard greens:
- The cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed mustard greens is only behind steamed collard greens and steamed kale.
- Mustard greens also are high in total glucosinolate content. Glucosinolates are phytonutrients that can be converted into isothiocyanates, which have cancer-preventive properties.
- Mustard greens have two critical anti-inflammatory nutrients, vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Mustard greens also support the body’s detox system through three key glucosinolates – sinigrin, gluconasturtiian, and glucotropaeolin.
So I’d encourage you to follow my mother’s advice – try mustard greens. They’re really pretty good – and they’re really good for you!
Published On: November 28, 2011