Crop of the Week: Mizuna
• Mizuna is a Japanese mustard green with glossy, dandelion-like jagged edge, dark green leaves with striking silvery white. It has a mild, sweet, somewhat earthy flavor. It has been cultivated in Japan since ancient times but most likely originated in China.
• Another Japanese name for mizuna is kyona-greens from Kyoto, the ancient capital of the empire. Mizuna translates from the Japanese as water or juicy vegetable.
• In terms of acreage, mizuna has a relatively small role in Yuma County winter produce production. However, it is a large player in the world of spring mix salads. Spring mix blends contain a varying mixture of green romaine, red romaine, tango, lollo rossa, green oak, red oak, mizuna, arugula, frillice, red chard, radicchio, frisee, curly endive and spinach. About half of the greens and lettuces in a spring mix are sweet and mild while others have a slightly bitter edge.
• Mizuna leaves also can be added to soups and stir-fry, normally added at the end of cooking. In cooking, as with nearly every leafy green, it's wise to pull the leaves from the stalks and ribs and cook each separately. Mizuna can be adapted to most any cooked dish requiring mustard greens or cabbage recipe. Some recipes call for mizuna being stuffed into ravioli and speckled through cream sauces.
• Spring mix is a dieter's delight and offers lots of healthy eating without an abundance of calories. Dark-colored greens offer the most nutrition. Spring mix is high in vitamin A and iron.
• When selecting spring mix, look for small greens that have fresh-looking, crisp leaves. When wrapped in plastic and stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, the greens will stay fresh for about a week.
• Spring mix blends may vary. Varying in taste and texture, spring mix offers a pleasant and palatable balance of flavors and textures. About half of the greens and lettuces in a Spring Mix are sweet and mild while others have a slightly bitter edge.
• Spring mix first originated in Nice in southern France. From France, it spread to the West Coast by way of Berkeley, Calif. Alice Waters, a self-proclaimed salad warrior, opened a restaurant called Chez Panisse, where she grew the salad mixes on her property. One of her goals was to teach the value of produce to her customers.
• In Italy and France, salads are served after the main course as a refreshment for the diner's taste buds and eyes. In the United States, salads are served before the main entree. Lettuce greens are especially popular in European and Asian cuisine.
• It was in the 1980s that salad mixes became exceptionally popular and the demand has continually escalated. These greens and lettuces thrive in the deserts of Southern California and Arizona during our wonderful winters.
Source: Kurt Nolte is an agriculture agent and Yuma County Cooperative Extension director. He can be reached at email@example.com or 726-3904.