Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

Cutting the mustard

The red and green mustard leaves are just starting to shine in the potager. One of the things Norfolk is famous for is Colman’s mustard, but no one seems to grow much in their vegetable plots. Prior to working at Darsham, I didn’t really know much about growing mustard. I certainly wasn’t aware of how deep and rich the leaves become as they mature.
It’s actually a pretty ingenious plant. It was first cultivated by the Chinese more than 3000 years ago. The ancient Greeks described it as the greatest plant of their time, because of its overall usefulness. Medicinally it was used for muscular relief, toothache, and as an appetite stimulant .They discovered that it increased circulation of the blood (how on earth ?) and put mustard flour inside socks to prevent frostbite. Staff in the nursery could use this at Christmas time. Rich Romans mixed the seeds with wine, thus inventing one of the early condiments ; they then brought it to France. The French then nicked the idea. Today it is being used to develop a new renewable liquid fuel.

It is believed that prehistoric man chewed it with slaughtered meat to disguise the taste. Perhaps it should be considered as a café garnish for the next uneducated palate that orders ‘that posset’

On a plate raw the leaves have a peppery tang, but are can also be served as wilted greens and can be made into a pesto.

Another cool season crop, hot weather causes the plants to bolt which in turn causes the leaves to turn unpleasantly bitter. Worldwide It’s grown en masse for its edible seeds, but here at Darsham we harvest it before it sets seed. We also use it for micros leaves in the winter months.

Leaf wise they remind me of a BBC period drama. There are the sharp, fragile, wispy, varieties: Red lace. Red frills, Golden streaks.
Then the Mr Darcy types: Red giant, Southern giant, Red Garnet, these are more virile and robust. Currently planted in the café beds they seem to stick their chests out, wanting to be the centre of attention.
Mustard leaves have become a mainstay of the potager in late autumn and early winter.The red and purple tones of ‘Red garnet’ and ‘Osaka purple’ compliment the brassicas perfectly, which now make sense because they are actually related. Nature is just so darn clever. The young leaves of ‘Red lace’ and ‘Red zest’ are incredibly attractive in winter salads, packing a wallop of heat. Used as a micro the tiny green leaves have a simple but effective red rim.

limegarden@sky.com • 17th November 2015

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