5 Mustard Varieties for the Spring Garden

Mustards are delicious and spicy spring greens. Easy to grow, flavorful, and beautiful, these 5 mustard varieties add flavor and flair to your vegetable patch.

by Jessica Walliser
PHOTO: Jessica Walliser

Mustards are easy-to-grow spring greens that love cool weather. Mustards are also delicious, lending their zippy flavor to salads when the greens are young and stir fries when they’re mature. The following five mustard varieties are top-notch in our book. Give them a try in the spring and enjoy their piquant flavor and productive yields.

1. Red Giant

The standard for purple-leaved mustard varieties, Red Giant produces gigantic leaves that are deep purple with medium green veins. Ready to pick at the baby stage at just 25 days or the full-leaf size in 45. Their spice is unforgettable, and their good looks in the garden can’t be beat.

2. Ruby Streaks

Prized for its lacy, soft leaves, Ruby Streaks has purple-tinged leaves with green mid-ribs. It’s also a great mustard variety for late-summer planting. Baby greens are ready to harvest in just 20 days from seed, the flavor is mild with a tangy bite.

3. Green Wave

The highly ruffled, bright green leaves of Green Wave look a bit like kale, but their flavor is far more spicy. Green Wave cooks beautifully and holds up in the pan. Highly productive and ready to harvest in 45 days as mature greens. This is one of the most bolt-resistant mustard varieties on the market.

4. Dragon Tongue

Another wine-colored mustard variety, these large leaves are crunchy and crinkly with white mid-ribs. Drop dead gorgeous and flavorful, this is a variety that’s a bit on the mild side compared to some others.

5. Tye Dye

Fast growing with highly serrated, feathery leaves, Tye Dye makes a stunning ornamental when mixed with flowers and foliage plants in containers and raised beds. Plant more seeds every few weeks for a continuous harvest.

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How to Grow Mustard Greens

All of these mustard varieties are simple to grow by directly sowing the seeds into the garden as soon as the spring soil can be worked. About four weeks before your last expected spring frost, plant the tiny, round seeds one inch apart and a half inch deep. Space rows 8 inches apart.

Mustard seeds germinate quickly, so you’ll be thinning the seedlings within two weeks of planting. Thin the plants until they’re about 4 inches apart, on center. Use the thinnings to spice up salads and sandwiches. If you’re going to harvest your mustard greens as baby greens for use in fresh salads, there’s no need to thin the plants as they won’t be growing to maturity.

If you don’t intend to harvest them as baby greens, allow the plants to reach maturity. Leaves can be harvested one at a time by breaking or cutting the outer, most mature leaves from the plant but leaving the growing point intact to resprout. Or, you can harvest the whole plant by cutting it off at ground level just above the soil and using it all in the kitchen.

When summer’s heat arrives, mustard varieties will bolt or go to flower. When this happens, the leaves turn either very spicy or bitter. When the harvest ends, pull the plants out and toss them in the compost pile, or leave the flowers for pollinators. Eventually, seed pods will form and dry on the plants. These seeds can be allowed to drop to the ground where they’ll re-sprout in the fall, when the weather cools again. The seeds can also be collected and saved for replanting the following spring. The resulting plants may or may not be the same variety as the parent plants, depending on whether the variety is open-pollinated or hybrid, but there’s a good chance they’ll be flavorful and well worth growing.

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