Mustard greens are next on the list for my growing greens mini series . As a wonderful winter crop, they thrive in cool temps and are cold hardy, meaning they will survive a light frost. I planted these in November as baby plants and they shot right on up in less than four weeks. I’ve harvested three rounds from the greens so far and it is continuing to grow, making bi-weekly and weekly harvests possible,depending on the number of servings I’m cooking. While I planted my mustards in a raised bed, they can easily be planted in a container outside. If you’re thinking, “i’m not going out to buy a container,” you can always use household items like an empty storage bin, large food containers, etc. that you can poke holes into with a screwdriver or pair of scissors.
As we are in winter, pick up a few transplants from your local nursery. You can usually get groups of 6 for a couple of bucks. It is worth the investment to let sunshine and nature grow a plant that keeps on giving all season long. The greens should keep producing into the spring.
To get started:
- Identify a sunny spot in your backyard (or front yard bed) to plant your greens.
- Dig holes to fit two transplants each if smaller or plan them individually 6-8 inches apart.
- Cover with dirt and then add mulch to help the plant retain its moisture
- If using a container, prep it by poking holes in the bottom for drainage
- Fill it 2/3 of the way with a mixture of compost and soil. Add plants and the cover with dirt, then mulch.
You can harvest the leaves by clipping them off with kitchen scissors; I waited about 6 weeks until the leaves were large and mature, but you can also clip them when they are young (2-3 weeks) and about 3-4 inches long for a little added spice to your salads.
Only cut what you plan to eat. The plant will continue to grow new leaves. Check out my stages of growth below. Happy growing!
If it starts to warm and you start noticing holes in your greens, you can spray them with organic pest sprays. You can cut, chop, bag and freeze them. I’d recommend labeling the bag with its content and the date so that you stay on top of its freshness. They should be consumed within 12 months.
Ever ignore the strange pear-shaped green vegetable at the produce stand? Mirliton or coyote squash is easy to transform into a dish everyone will love. Mirliton dressing with seafood and ham is one of my favorites and is an easy dish to cook in larger quantities for the week. In addition to dressing, it can also be pickled, sliced thin for stir fry and curried among many other uses. I used the whole vegetable, skin and all for added nutrients. They are out in abundance and an easy win to add to your shopping list. For the protein, I like ham and shrimp; however it is easy to substitute ground meat or ground chicken for the ham if you do not eat those meats. I did make my own bread crumbs for this dish and will include that recipe below. Certainly your favorite brand will work in this dish as well. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts.
1/2 lb shrimp
8oz diced ham
1 cup diced onion
1 tbsp. olive or avocado oil
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 cups of kale *optional (I added it because I had it)
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
4-6 slices of wheat bread (depends on size)
1/2 cup dry oats
2 tbsp of flax seed
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
Pinch of salt and pepper
- Pre heat oven to 350.
- Rinse mirliton and boil in a pot over high heat for 30 minutes.
- In the last 10 minutes of boiling, toast bread, then grind it, the oats and the flaxseed in a food processor, blender or other device. Place in a baking dish and add seasoning and 2 tsp of olive oil. Mix well and brown in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Strain mirliton, rinse in cool water and let cool for 15-20 minutes. While the mirliton cools, rinse and chop kale small. Dice onion and sauté both in 1 tsp. oil.
- Peel shrimp and chop before adding to skillet and cooking.
- Dice ham and add to skillet. Reduce heat. Remove breadcrumbs from oven
- Chop mirliton small and add to the skillet. Add seasoning and mix well. Add in breadcrumbs and mix well.
- Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 10-15 minutes until top is lightly browned.
Happy 2019; I hope your year is off to a great start! I said I would do a couple of post on gardening in the New Year and thought it best to start off with one. Growing your own food doesn’t have to be scary and is certainly rewarding. I actually began growing by attending a fundraiser and participating in a ticket pull. While my goal was to win a bottle of wine, I instead won a few herb plants and my first tomato plant. After my first tomato came in, I was hooked and have been growing since then.
I’d like to start with lettuce since this is perfect weather to grow them in Louisiana and similar climates with temperatures at a low of 40 and high of 75 degrees. It’s important to note, soil PH is different in different areas and can even be different in your backyard. So finding the right spot to grow your crops is part of the discovery. You can always add compost and plant food with dirt when planting to create more PH balance. I learned through trial and error that I do best growing in planters for crops like lettuce rather than in ground. Lettuce needs good drainage, sun with shade for part of the day and regular water. Once I found the right spot, the greens mostly took care of themselves.
I brought a rectangular planter and drilled holes in the bottom to support drainage. With a mix of potting mix, organic compost and organic chicken manure, I had a great growing environment. The fun came in adding rows of different seeds for a pretty interesting salad mix. I included red and green lettuce, arugula and mesclun seeds in the bed for my salad. With rain every few days, I have not had to water the planters. It’s important to make sure the box remains moist. Once they start to sprout, it takes three to four weeks to grow into tasty salad greens. *Note: Growing herbs like parsley and cilantro is not only easy, but make great salad additions.
Considering squirrels are frequent backyard visitors, I covered my greens with mesh netting to prevent nibbles. I have not had any problems with nibbles nor other pest impacting the greens; however if you do, there are organic sprays that can be used such as Garden Safe, which I did need for tomatoes this past summer.
I’d recommend only cutting what you need for a meal to get the most fresh and best tasting greens. Rinse them well! I clipped them down to the base stem and added them to a sink of water to get off any extra dirt. Check out images of the stages of growth below.
Just starting to sprout (they do not all come out at the same time):
Gaining traction (about 2 weeks later):
Be patient. It’s worth it! (2-3 weeks later)