Mustard greens are a common vegetable found in cuisines throughout Northern and Southern Asia, as suggested by its other names Indian mustard and Chinese mustard. These greens feature broad, frilly leaves with fibrous veins and stems and a strong, assertive taste. Their equally strong-flavored seeds serve as the base for the condiment mustard.
Mustard greens originated in the Himalayan region of India and spread profusely throughout Asia and into Europe. They have been consumed throughout the world for over 5,000 years, but archaeological evidence suggests that they were first cultivated in the Indus valley around 1500 B.C. It is believed that the Franciscan monk Father Junipero Serra brought wild mustard greens to North America, planting them around his adopted home in California.
Mustard greens are celebrated for being rich in antioxidants well as anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and cancer-preventing compounds. Mustard greens also contain anti-microbial oils that can help fight bacteria and infection. This property, together with its warming effect, led to mustard greens being used as a poultice for muscle, joint and skin health.
Wrap mustard greens loosely in a paper towel and store in a plastic bag for up to 6 days in the refrigerator. Wash and dry just before using.
The horseradish-like flavor of mustard greens is not for the faint of heart. Their juicy, crunchy texture lets them hold up well to long, slow cooking. The assertive flavor of mustard greens is perfect for pairing with rich sauces, meats, or even cheese, but they can also help boost the flavor of milder dishes such as seafood or stewed beans.
Wilt mustard greens in a large frying pan with plenty of olive oil and salt. Add chopped garlic and cook until garlic is crispy. Remove from heat, add a splash of red wine vinegar, and dust with red pepper flakes. Serve topped with spicy meatballs, poached eggs, crumbled pancetta, or stewed white beans.
Salt is the best way to tame the bitterness of mustard greens. Cooking greens with cured meats like bacon or pancetta, or salty condiments such as anchovy paste or fish sauce, will mellow their intensity and soften any toughness in their texture.