If you’re planting a vegetable garden this spring, you might want to consider trying some mustard seeds for a pretty little herb that is so beneficial to eye care. Like its cousins yellow fruits and vegetables, it is full of beta carotene which means lots of vitamin A, a great protector for the eyes.
This is a vitamin that converts to r11-cis retinal, the protein that’s in the rods of the retina, the part of your eye that helps you see in dim light. If it’s mustard greens you like to eat, know that a half cup of cooked greens provides more than half the Vitamin A the body requires in a day.
In the garden growing mustard is quick and easy to grow and is a nice accompaniment for all the vegetables in your harvest.
You can start with either seeds or from seedlings. From seeds, start them outdoors three weeks before the end of frost then every three weeks after that but before the hot summer sun if you want continued harvests.
Plant each seed just under the soil about a half inch apart. After they sprout, thin the seedlings to 3 inches apart.
If you’re planting seedlings, plant them 3 to 5 inches apart beginning three weeks before the last frost. And like the seeds, you can plant every three weeks until summer, then pick it up in mid-summer for a fall harvest as well.
The plants don’t need much care, just plenty of sun or partial shade and you’ll see them grow quickly. No need for any special fertilizer, they like any garden soil, and need to be watered once a week or so if there isn’t much rain. And keep out the weeds! Mustard doesn’t need the competition.
Harvesting the greens while they’re still young and tender, since the older leaves get tough and more bitter. You can either pick individual leaves and leave the plant to grow more, or cut the entire plant harvest all the leaves at once.
You can boil the leaves and serve as a vegetable, put the flowers and seed pods in salads, or grind the seeds for mustard, the second most popular spice in the USA. (Pepper is the first.)
Besides being so great for the eyes, mustard is considered to be beneficial in lowering the risk of some forms of cancer, something that is still being studied. On the negative side, it’s not the herb to choose if you like a bland diet.
Here’s an old Southern recipe for cooked mustard greens, which is, like kale and celery, terrific miced with bacon and onion
Greens and Bacon
2 bunches mustard greens
2 1/2 cups water, divided
4 strips bacon diced,
1 onion, chopped
Pepper and salt if desired, or add
1 teaspoon sugar or a dash of red pepper flakes.
Wash the greens to ensure all grit is gone. Discard the thick pieces and coarsely chop the rest.
Bring 1 Cup water to a boil in a stockpot, add the greens in handfuls, giving each handful a chance to wilt before adding the next.
Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain in a colander and get out all the excess moisture.
Add bacon to the pot and fry until crisp, then transfer to a paper towel to drain.
Add copped onion to the bacon drippings and sauté until lightly brown. Put the bacon back in and stir.
Add the cooked greens and the remaining 1 1/2 cups water,
Salt (if you must) and pepper, perhaps the sugar if desired or pepper flakes. Cover and cook on a medium heat about 30 minutes until tender.
Enjoy! And help your eyes!
As far as its place in history, mustard seeds have been found in Stone Age settlements and are mentioned in the Bible. In the New Testament it has been used as a symbol of faith…. “The Lord said, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
It has been used as a spice from the earliest recorded times, and was used by Hippocrates and ancient physicians in medicine. Today, it is the most sold of all herbs around the world.