This is the fourth installment in a series about my experiences growing Asian vegetables. You can find the other articles by clicking on the tag “Growing Asian Vegetables” at the bottom of this post.
Are you familiar with mizuna? It’s quite possible you and many others have eaten mizuna and never realized it, since it’s a common ingredient in salad green mixes you find at the grocery. And there’s a good reason it finds its way into those mixes. Mizuna is quick and easy to grow, cold hardy, mild tasting, and very lovely to look at too. The crisp leaves are sturdy and keep well after harvest, and they add some ‘loft’ to salad mixes. Mizuna is also tasty when cooked, useful in soups, lightly steamed, or stir-fried by itself or with other vegetables and meats. And that makes it pretty versatile in the kitchen as well as in the garden.
Mizuna (Brassica rapa var. japonica) is botanically related to turnips, though the plant certainly doesn’t look like or taste like turnips. It grows in a clump or rosette form, with slender and juicy white leaf stalks and feathery, finely dissected green leaves. There is also a variety with reddish-purple leaves called Purple Mizuna. I like a green leaved selection called Kyoto that I have grown for the last couple of years. Early Mizuna is another widely available and popular variety.
Mizuna plants are tolerant to both heat and cold. It’s great for fall planting, and the plants usually survive the winter here in our zone 6b garden when protected by a cold frame or row covers. Since mizuna is a biennial, the overwintered plants will usually bolt and flower when the lengthening days of early spring arrive. The yellow flowers are attractive to bees and beneficial insects though, which makes it tempting to let it flower if you don’t need the growing space. And like most Asian greens, the flowers and flower stalks are edible. Plants allowed to flower will self-seed if left to grow long enough for seed to mature. They will readily cross with other Asian greens and turnips if they are flowering at the same time. Spring plantings of mizuna are usually slower to bolt than many other Asian greens. And while mizuna will tolerate hot summer weather, the quality of the leaves will suffer.
Mizuna seeds can be sown in place where you want the plants to grow, or it can be sown indoors in a tray or container and transplanted outside when seedlings are 2-3 weeks old. Mizuna is fast growing, and mature plants will be ready to harvest in 6-8 weeks. Whole plants can be cut for harvest, or leaves can be cut with scissors a couple of inches above the soil line and plants will regrow leaves for a second or third cutting (cut and come again method).
Since mizuna is great in salads, I like to add it to my mixed container plantings. It grows at about the same rate as lettuce and arugula, so it is a good choice with those and other quick growing mesclun mixes. The young mizuna leaves can be ready for cutting as soon as 20 or 25 days.
If you’ve not tried growing mizuna yet, you might want to add it to your repertoire of quick and easy to grow greens. It’s not too late to sow for a fall/winter crop in many areas, or as a spring/summer crop in the southern hemisphere. It’s become a staple here at Happy Acres in all four seasons, and I’ll bet it would look and taste good in your garden as well.
I’ll be back soon with the next installment highlighting another Asian vegetable. Until then, happy growing!