Mustard Leaves Green in the Snow
It's difficult to imagine, but by August you're probably going to be getting a little bored of eating lettuce leaves. Conveniently this is when tasty oriental salad leaves like mustard and mizuna come into their own. From sowing they'll be ready to pick within a few weeks, plus they're a 'cut and come again' plant. Just chop all the leaves off leaving about 1/2in poking out of the soil and it'll re-grow 4-5 times. It will even survive right into the winter, as its name suggests.
Like Mizuna, it's best to hold off sowing until the start of July because earlier in the year it will attract flea beetles that will pepper the leaves with holes, and it will bolt - rush up and produce flowers instead of leaves.
Time from seed to plate: 6 weeks
Sow two rows of mustard seeds directly in your soil in late June or early July. Lay a narrow piece of wood across your bed and drag a trowel along the edge to create a shallow groove in the soil about 1/2in deep. Sprinkle in the seeds, aiming for one every half inch or so. Firm the soil back and water well.
Thin your seedlings to leave one plant every 6in or so.
Keep an eye out for caterpillars and pick them off by hand.
Mustard leaves grow to 8in, but they're best when they're nice and juicy at 4in.
In the summer when it's growing, fast pick by chopping everything off to leave behind a stump 1in above ground. This will quickly re-grow. Make sure you keep picking to stop it from running to seed. In the winter when it's growing more slowly, it pays to be a little gentler. 'Pick round' by pulling off the outside leaves, letting the centre ones carry on growing uncut.
Like all salad leaves, immerse the leaves in cold water for five minutes after picking to plump them up.