Mizuna is a Japanese name used for similar varieties of mustard greens with jagged or frilly dandelion like leaves and a sweet, mild, earthy flavor. Mizuna has been cultivated in Japan since ancient times, but most likely originated in China.
It is a vigorous grower producing numerous stalks bearing dark green, deeply cut and fringed leaves. They have a fresh, crisp taste and can be used on their own or cooked with meat. The Japanese are fond of them pickled. Mizuna is highly resistant to cold and is grown extensively during the winter months.
The vegetable averages 14″ to 16″ in height with leaves that are green and yellow, smooth in texture and somewhat feathery in shape. It is available as a mature green or as a baby version that is smaller in size and more tender in texture. As a salad green mizuna can be steamed, boiled, stir fried or used to complement other greens mixed together for a salad, especially Red Asian Mustard greens. When cooked it shrinks to about half its size so it takes a large amount to make a cooked vegetable dish containing only mizuna.
The taste has been described as a mild peppery flavor, slightly spicy, but less so than arugula. Mizuna makes an excellent salad green, and is frequently found in mesclun. It is also used in stir-frys, soups, and nabemono.
Not only is it good to eat, it’s also quite decorative, with glossy, serrated, dark green leaves and narrow white stalks, looking good in flower beds and as edging. It is vigorous, adaptable and easy to grow in most soils. The usual sowing time is from early to late summer, but it can be sown in late spring or early summer, when it may have a tendency to bolt. Another alternative is to sow in early autumn for transplanting under cover.
Mizuna is nutritious and contains vitamin C, folic acid, and antioxidants. And like other brassica vegetables, it contains glucosinolates, which may inhibit the development of certain cancers. Glucosinolates are the compounds that give brassicas, like Brussels sprouts and cabbage, their bitter flavor.