Early and delicious mustard greens are up everywhere.
Both the yellow and purple flowers are wild mustards. Neither of these are so sharp in taste that they are unpleasant to eat, although there is a white flowered variety that I favor. I haven’t bothered to identify them more specifically than knowing they are mustards and as edible as my taste buds allow. Worldwide, there are well over 3000 species.
These are the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, and radishes. If you have trouble growing the overbred varieties, collect seeds from your local wild varieties and propagate the tasty ones.
My first year here, I ate native mustards and did not plant cabbage or kale. As they passed, the wild Amaranth was up and I shifted to their greens. I enjoy my wild greens so much that every winter since, I grow them in my south kitchen window. Now that I have turned my extra bedroom into a greenhouse, I will have more wild greens. The purple flowered one in the photo is new this year and is already setting good seed pods… I will collect seed before long and add them to my winter garden. I will also seed the area around my tiny red oak seedling.
How am I confident to eat these strange plants? Mustards are very easy to identify. The flower has 4 petals usually in an X shape, and seed pods running up the flower stalk. The new purple flowered variety has long thin pods like a ladder up the stalk, but some are racemes of single flattened seeds. The faintest taste of a leaf will have an obvious mustard taste. Mild or very sharp. I do pass on the sharper tasting varieties as greens, but collect their seeds for winter soups… nothing better than a tiny bite.
These are always my first greens, in late winter, and may be a part of why I look forward to eating them. Winters are so long and fresh greens are so welcome as it ends.
Wild mustard greens have all the anticancer properties of the domesticated Brassicas. In Texas, you can drive by entire abandoned fields covered with mustard plants and nobody eats them! They do not store well in the refrigerator, but I run some through the blender and freeze them in ice cube trays. Once frozen, they pop into a plastic bag and can be added to anything you are cooking. Even white rice is better for the addition of a cube of wild mustard greens.
Wild mustards are a generous gift to my late winter food supply. I have 7 new raised beds that I will overseed with wild mustard seeds as soon as they are ripe for the earliest greens next winter As they reseed for years to come and are finished by the time I start planting domesticated varieties, they add one earlier layer of fresh nutrition to my diet.
As I become self sufficient in my food supply, I rely on wild mustard greens to provide calories, nutrition, and anticancer agents when I need them the most, in late winter.