Mustard Greens 101 – The Basics
About Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are members of the Brassicaceae (or “Brassica”) family of plants. This same family of plants is also known as the Crucifereae (or “Cruciferous”) family of plants, and may also be called the “mustard family.” They are all one and the same. Other familiar plants in this family include cabbage, kale, collards, turnips, cauliflower, radishes, and horseradish, among other.
There is no consensus on where the mustard plant originated. It is possible it came from parts of Europe. Wherever it originated, it quickly spread around the world and is now commonly found throughout Europe, Northern Africa, India, Asia, and North America.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Mustard greens have a lot to brag about regarding nutrient contents. They are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They are an excellent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A (beta-carotene), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, copper, manganese, and calcium. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, Vitamin B6, protein, Vitamin B2, and iron. They are considered to be a good source of potassium, Vitamin B1, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folate. One cup of raw mustard greens has a mere 15 calories!
Interestingly, the utilizable amount of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and copper in mustard greens increases when they are cooked. However, some (but not all!) of the Vitamin C and Vitamin E are lost during cooking.
Mustard greens are also a valuable source of an array of phytonutrients including glucosinolates, phenolic acids, and flavonoids. With all things considered, mustard greens are an extremely healthy food to eat and we should all eat them as often as we can!
Rich in Antioxidants (Disease Prevention). Mustard greens are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. These are compounds that fight against oxidative stress caused by an excess of harmful free radicals in the body. Such molecules can cause cellular damage leading to serious, chronic conditions, like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disorder, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease. Eating mustard greens and other leafy greens in the Brassica family on a regular basis can help us avoid these conditions.
Very High in Vitamin K (Blood Clotting and Bone Health). As mentioned earlier, mustard greens are extraordinarily high in Vitamin K. One cup of raw mustard greens provides 120% of the daily value, whereas one cup cooked provides a whopping 690% of the daily value.
Vitamin K is important in proper blood clotting function and is essential for heart and bone health. Inadequate Vitamin K has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Recent studies have also suggested there is a link between Vitamin K deficiency and impaired brain functioning, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. All the more reason to be sure you’re getting enough Vitamin K!
Important Note! If you are taking blood thinning medications such as Warfarin, check with your doctor before increasing your intake of Vitamin K-rich foods. The boost in Vitamin K may alter your prothrombin time and your medication dosage may need to be adjusted.
Immune System Support. With mustard greens being high in Vitamins C and A, there is good reason to determine it provides valuable support for the immune system. Vitamin C is essential for a strong immune system. Research has shown that a Vitamin C deficiency weakens the immune system making us more prone to getting sick. Vitamin A is also important for proper immune functioning because it promotes the growth and distribution of T cells. These are a type of white blood cell needed to help fight off potential infections.
Supports Heart Health. Mustard greens are high in antioxidants, such as flavonoids and beta-carotene (a Vitamin A precursor), which have been associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from heart disease. A study reported in 2016 in the journal JRSM Cardiovascular Disease found that a high intake of leafy green vegetables in the Brassica family was associated with a significant 15% reduced risk of heart disease.
Anticancer Effects. Glucosinolates are among the powerful phytonutrients found in mustard greens. These compounds have been shown to help protect cells against DNA damage and prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Observational studies have shown a link between overall intake of Brassica vegetables and a reduced risk of certain cancers, including stomach, colorectal, and ovarian cancers.
Eye Health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are among the strong antioxidants found in mustard greens. These specific compounds have been shown to protect the retina from oxidative damage, reducing the risk of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the world.
How to Select Mustard Greens
Choose mustard greens that are free of blemishes, yellowing or brown spots. They should look fresh and crisp with a bright green color.
How to Store Mustard Greens
To store mustard greens, wrap them in paper towels or a clean cloth. If they are wet from being in the produce display at the grocery store, simply place them in a plastic bag after wrapping them and store them in the refrigerator. If the leaves are dry, after rolling the leaves, slightly dampen the cloth or paper towels with up to ¼ cup of water. Place the rolled leaves in the dampened cloth inside a plastic bag and store that in the refrigerator. Storing them with some dampness allows them to maintain crispness in a humid, but not wet environment (within the plastic bag). Wait to wash the greens until you’re ready to use them. Enjoy your greens within four days.
How to Prepare Mustard Greens
Simply wash mustard greens under cold water. Then roll the leaves and slice them into ½-inch ribbons. There is no need to remove the stems unless you prefer to do that. Cook as desired.
How to Freeze Mustard Greens
Freezing mustard greens is a simple procedure of blanching, cooling, draining and freezing your greens. This is necessary to stop enzyme activity that would cause them to further age while being stored.
Simply wash your greens very well. You may remove the stems if desired, but it’s not mandatory. Slice the washed leaves into ½-inch ribbons. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the prepared leaves in the boiling water and immediately set a kitchen timer for 2 minutes. As soon as the timer is up, transfer the greens to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool down completely, then drain them very well. Place the blanched leaves in freezer bags or containers and remove as much air as possible. Label with the current date and use them within 12 months.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Mustard Greens
* When cooking mustard greens in liquid, always add them to boiling liquid rather than cold, which would “set” the bitterness.
* To help neutralize the strong flavor of mustard greens, combine them with miso or with other milder-tasting vegetables.
* If mustard greens are too strong or bitter for you, here are some easy ways to tame them down: Blanch them first and discard the blanching water; pair them with strong-flavored ingredients (such as bacon, sausage, or garlic); add something sweet (such as roasted squash or dried fruit); add some acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) at the end of cooking time; add some salt or a salty ingredient (such as bacon or ham); or braise them (slow cooking in a liquid helps to cut bitterness as it softens the leaves).
* Try stir-steamed mustard greens with walnuts.
* Add young mustard green leaves to a smoothie for a spicy flavor.
* Young mustard greens will be more tender than large, mature leaves. Try adding young mustard greens to a green salad for a flavor boost. Mix them with other greens to balance flavors.
* Try adding chopped mustard greens to a pasta salad. Combine cooked pasta with chopped tomatoes, pine nuts, goat cheese, and young mustard greens. Toss with olive oil and serve.
* If a recipe calls for mustard greens and you don’t have any, broccoli rabe, arugula, turnip greens, radish greens, collards, escarole, kale, mature spinach, or green chard may be substituted.
* One pound of fresh mustard greens = 6 to 7 cups raw, or 1-1/3 to 2 cups cooked
* Ten ounces of frozen mustard greens = 1-1/4 cups cooked
* Try adding mustard greens to soups, stews, and casseroles.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Mustard Greens
Capers, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cumin, curry powder, dill, garlic, ginger, pepper (black), salt, thyme
Foods That Go Well with Mustard Greens
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general, esp. kidney), beef, black-eyed peas, cashews, chickpeas, eggs, fish (and other seafood), lamb, peanuts, peanut butter, pine nuts, pork, sausage, sesame seeds, tofu, walnuts
Vegetables: Carrots, celery, chiles (and chili pepper paste), greens (other, milder greens such as dandelion, spinach), kale, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, shallots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables (in general, milder and/or sweeter), yams
Fruits: Lemon, olives, oranges, pears, raisins
Grains and Grain Products: Bread crumbs, farro, grains (in general), millet, noodles, rice
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e., goat, smoked Gouda, Parmesan, ricotta)
Other Foods: Miso, molasses, oil (i.e., chili, mustard, olive, peanut, sesame, sunflower seed), soy sauce, stock, tamari, vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, red wine, white wine), wine (i.e., rice), Worcestershire sauce
Mustard greens have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
African cuisines, Asian cuisines, Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, salads (i.e., pasta, potato), sandwiches, sauces, soups (i.e., bean), Southeast Asian cuisines, Southern (U.S.) cuisine, stews, stir-fries, tofu or egg scramble
Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Mustard Greens
Add mustard greens to any of the following combinations…
Capers + Lemon
Chiles + Cumin + Garlic + Olive Oil + Vinegar
Cider Vinegar + Molasses + Peanuts
Garlic + Ginger + Soy Sauce
Garlic + Peanuts
Lemon Juice + Olive Oil + Walnuts
Onions + Tomatoes
Scallions + Sesame Oil + Tamari
Simple Southern Mustard Greens with Bacon https://www.thespruceeats.com/mustard-greens-3060133
10 Ways to Use Mustard Greens https://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/greens/10-ways-use-mustard-greens
3 Quick Meals You Can Make with Mustard Greens https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/g20506296/3-quick-meals-you-can-make-with-mustard-greens/
Sautéed Mustard Greens with Garlic and Lemon https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/sauteed-mustard-greens-garlic-lemon-recipe
Coconut Creamed Greens https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/coconut-creamed-greens
Soba Soup with Shrimp and Greens https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/soba-soup-with-shrimp-and-greens
Sake-Braised Mustard Greens with Sesame https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sake-braised-mustard-greens-with-sesame
The Greatest Creamed Greens https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/the-greatest-creamed-greens
Greens Eggs and Ham https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/greens-eggs-and-ham
Spiced Chickpeas and Greens Frittata https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/spiced-chickpeas-and-greens-frittata
Mustard Greens https://www.bonappetit.com/ingredient/mustard-greens
Asian-Inspired Mustard Greens https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/218501/asian-inspired-mustard-greens/
Vegetarian Mustard Greens https://www.budgetbytes.com/vegetarian-mustard-greens/
Mustard Greens https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/mustard_greens/
Balsamic-Glazed Chickpeas and Mustard Greens https://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2009/07/balsamic-glazed-chickpeas-and-mustard.html
15-Minute Mustard Greens Recipe https://plantbasedandbroke.com/15-minute-mustard-greens-recipe/
Curried Mustard Greens and Garbanzo Beans with Sweet Potatoes http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=41
Instant Pot Mustard Greens https://spicecravings.com/sarson-ka-saag-spiced-mustard-greens#recipe
Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. Third edition, Bulletin 989. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.