While I can’t deny that I love bringing in from the garden crisp young lettuce, sun-ripened tomatoes, and the sugariest of sweet corns, I also get a lot of pleasure from harvesting foods I’ve never eaten before–or even seen. Tatsoi mustard (Brassica rapa narinosa) is one of the latter.
I ordered Tatsoi seeds to help me start a winter garden this fall. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange lists Tatsoi as the most cold-hardy commonly available mustard, hardy to 22°F. I’m hoping to plant a big bed of it this fall and eat it all through the winter. But I also planted a little this spring, to see how easy it was to grow, and also to see what it looks and tastes like!
Well, it’s fairly easy to grow, though I’ve found it does need consistent watering in a drought. We didn’t get any rain for about five weeks from early March to mid-April, and my perfunctory periodic sprinklings on the row I planted Feb. 28 were insufficient. The plants didn’t die, but they grew very slowly and the leaves were riddled with holes from invisible insects. The March 14 planting got deeper and more frequent watering. Those plants grew much more quickly and had minimal insect damage–another bit of evidence in support of the theory that stress makes plants more attractive to insects, and that the best pest prevention is taking good care of the plants’ basic needs. (For more on that, see my last post, “Brassica Attack.”)
Well, the Feb. 28 and March 14 plantings are now both big enough to harvest. I’ve been sampling individual leaves for a couple of weeks. They have that mustardy taste that I remember from foraging hairy bittercress this winter. But the Tatsoi leaves are much bigger and easier to harvest.
When there were just a few leaves ready, I added them to salads. This mostly masked their bite, just added a subtle pungency behind all the lettuce and spinach. But now the plants are getting quite large, and I need to harvest more than a few leaves at a time, so I’m starting to look for other serving possibilities.
One recipe I’ve come across–on the website of Ten Mile Farm outside of Asheville, NC–is for a wilted salad with sesame-ginger dressing. For this recipe, you chop the Tatsoi into wide strips and drop it into boiling water for exactly one minute, then immediately drain and put in a bowl of ice water so it will stop cooking. This wilts the greens but helps them retain some freshness. The dressing is made from 2 T. soy sauce, 1 T. rice vinegar, 1 t. grated ginger root, 1 t. sugar, 1/2 t. Sriracha (or other Asian hot chile sauce), and black pepper. Not having any rice vinegar, I substituted red wine vinegar. I also put a dash of cayenne instead of the hot chile sauce. The result was acceptable, but I’m sure it’d be better with the called-for ingredients. On the other hand, the recipe calls for chilling the Tatsoi and dressing for an hour after combining (then topping with toasted sesame seeds). After trying the chilled version, I’d like to try it at room temperature or even warm.
I’ve also heard that Tatsoi is a great stir fry ingredient, though I haven’t tried that yet. Do you have any favorite Tatsoi recipes you’d be willing to share?
8 Comments Add yours
Wow, your tatsoi looks great! Mine only got to about half that size and started to bolt. I had started it in the cold frame the day after I transplanted it the temperature hit 90 and it think it might have stressed it out too much. Mine also has those tiny holes, from flea beetles I think. I just sowed another round of seeds directly in the garden and I’m hoping it does a little better.
I make a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook for soba noodles with spinach and salmon. The sauce is very similar to the recipe you describe. I bet it would be great with tatsoi in place of the spinach. I’ve mostly been adding mine to salads since it hasn’t gotten very big.
Yum…I bet the Tatsoi would go great with salmon. And soba noodles!
Yum! It looks delish! Hey, I was wondering, have you ever grown sesame seeds? I’m thinking of giving it a go, but I kind of want someone with skin to tell me about their experience first. The catalogs make it seem so wonderful, but that is their job, right? Anyway, your greens look excellent, cheers.
No, I’ve never tried growing sesame seeds. I have no idea what the plants even look like! My most exotic try at seeds so far is poppy seeds, and this is my first year with that, though the plants seem to be doing really well so far.
Ooh…what kinds of poppies are you doing? Are you growing them specifically for the seeds, or will that just be an added bonus? I have the Mother of Pearl and some Shirley but I’ve been toying with the idea of a couple more. You and I exist on the the same plane it seems = )
I’m growing Hungarian Breadseed poppies, for the seed. But they apparently also have beautiful purple flowers on tall stalks (that will probably need staking to prevent losing a lot of the seeds). The catalog says they readily self-seed, so I’m hoping this is the only year I’ll actually have to plant them! (I just LOVE poppy-seed muffins.)
I don’t have any tatsoi recipes, I have walking past it at the farmer’s market lately and thinking about it though… Be our guinea pig 🙂 Let us know what you make and how you like it!