Spice, colour, texture, and nutrition – these greens have it all.
Mizuna: The last member of this party is a Japanese mustard plant – and it packs a peppery punch not unlike arugula. This hardy dark green mustard plant is eaten and grown year-round in Japan. It is popular pickled, but also served raw and cooked as an accompaniment to meats and seafood. The seeds from Mizuna plants are used to make Dijon mustard!
Tatsoi : "Spinach mustard" or "spoon mustard" is a close relative of the mustard green or Brassica Juncea . Its flavour is slightly less pungent, and in contrast to the ruby-streaks mustard greens it has a much softer texture. Tatsoi is a varietal specifically grown for its leaves, but historically all parts of the plant have been used in cooking – from the root (turnip) to the seed (mustard).
Ruby-Streaks Mustard Greens: This colourful leaf is a varietal of the Mustard Green plant, or Brassica Juncea . The leaves of mustard greens have been harvested for centuries, along with their seeds which are a valued spice and source of edible oils. Mustard varietals such as this have been used in traditional cooking and valued for its medicinal properties all over Asia, but also in Africa and India.
Each one of these greens has its own "personality", which hopefully you will notice as you enjoy them! They are fantastic (as suggested in their name) stir-fried, but some of the greens are also a welcome addition to salads and coleslaws, as long as you don’t mind a little spice.
Some have you may have already guessed what the medicinal properties of these greens are – and hopefully for those of you who read this Vegitales column, the " Brassica " name gives it away. As a recap, Brassica veggies (mustard greens, kale, broccoli, cabbage, radish etc.) are all liver-loving foods. They are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants which stimulate liver detoxification pathways and have anti-cancer properties. Some of these phytochemicals are so powerful and effective- researchers are now trying to "bottle" or encapsulate them as the next big supplement and/or drug in cancer prevention. You heard me say it, and hopefully you agree – but food is always superior to supplement – you just can’t bottle all of the benefits of these veggies!
Some healthful properties that set these greens apart: Mustard green varietals (mizuna included) are exceptionally rich sources of minerals like selenium, chromium, zinc and iron. These minerals are especially important for the health of our liver and our endocrine/hormonal system – especially the thyroid gland and our insulin sensitivity which controls blood sugar levels. These veggies are also good for your cardiovascular system; Tatsoi contains similar compounds that are exceptionally good at binding bile acids, which means that they help to lower cholesterol levels by increasing its excretion through the digestive tract. Interesting to note, the cholesterol-lowering qualities of these plants are enhanced when they are lightly steamed!
Good for the heart, hormones and liver – enjoying greens such as these 2-3 times/week has numerous health benefits! Bon appetit and don’t forget your chopsticks this week!
Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.