When most of us hear the words “mustard greens”, we probably think of the traditional southern side dish that we grew up hating as kids. The good news is there are many different ways of preparing this leafy vegetable other than the mushy green stuff  put on your plate at Grandma’s house. This soul food even has plenty of health benefits that most people aren’t aware of. 

How did Mustard Greens become a thing?

The traditional style of cooking greens came from Africa during the slave trade. The slaves that lived on southern plantations passed down their traditional cooking techniques and eventually gave us the southern soul food we have today. 

Why are they beneficial?

We usually don’t think of southern food as being super nutritious, but mustard greens are! They contain the important antioxidants vitamins A and C. Antioxidants protect the body from free-radicals that cause cell damage. These greens also contain vitamin K, which is important for bone health. Mustard greens are very high in chlorophyll, which is the substance that gives certain plants their green color. But it’s also important for humans because chlorophyll can help pull toxins out of the liver.

When are they in season?

You can usually find local mustard greens in the spring (May-June) and fall (September-November) in Tennessee. However, this is subject to change depending on weather. Look for greens that are vibrant, not yellow or wilted. The smaller the leaves, the more tender that will be once cooked. 

How long will they keep?

Mustard greens will stay fresh for about a week if properly stored. Only wash the amount you are going to cook at a time. When you first get them, go through the bunch and remove the bad leaves. This will keep the rest of the bunch fresher. Place the greens in a breathable produce bag and store in a crisper drawer. You can poke holes in a regular Ziploc bag if you don’t have produce bags. Placing a paper towel in the bag with them will wick away moisture if your refrigerator is very humid. 

Now that I have them, how do I cook them?

Be sure to wash your greens thoroughly before eating since leafy vegetables tend to hold onto dirt and debris. Most recipes tell you to soak or rinse the greens in cold water for a few minutes before cooking them. You can cut as much of the stem off as you want. The good stuff is in the leaves! 

Now it’s time to get creative. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Add them to your favorite stew or soup in the crockpot. Just don’t cook them in there the whole time. Add them about 15 minutes before you serve. (Less time on high heat)
  • Make them Jamaican style. Recipe can be found here on Weekly Fig’s meal plan. 
  • Add them to  your weekend brunch menu. Saute the greens with roasted sweet potatoes, red peppers, and sweet onions. Add some whisked eggs, and season with thyme or rosemary, salt, and pepper. 
  • Make them the traditional way, but with unexpected seasonings. Want them spicy? Add cayenne or red pepper flakes. Craving something Asian inspired? Add tahini and sesame seeds. 

The sky is the limit! With all the different possible combinations of flavors, everyone is sure to find their favorite way to eat their greens. No matter how you prepare them, you are still receiving the wonderful health benefits of this staple food. 

Weekly Fig is a private membership association for local sustainable foods.