Tuesday, July 26, 2016
MIZUNA (Brassica rapa var. japonica)
I am not one for growing those large vegetable gardens of my childhood memories. A huge area of dug soil used for potatoes with rows and rows of vegetables is not my kind of gardening. How would I eat that much anyways? Four Square Gardening or Key Hole Gardening is more to my liking. Small and easy to care for but supplies your vegetable needs. I have ended up with a container kitchen garden and tend to grow the easier and tougher plants, some of which are on the alternative side to what you find in the supermarket. Easy growing are the operative words. Mostly I seem to end up with green leafy vegetables like Low Cholesterol Plant (see March 2016 ) and Ong Choi ( see April 15) that I mostly cook in stir fries. I have decided it is time to increase my supply of salad greens. This has been problematic in the past. Bugs and slugs made it just so frustrating plus I usually water the containers with a garden hose and end up blasting out the little seedlings. Obviously, if I was wanted to grow salad greens I was going to have to change how I did things.
Firstly I needed something easy to grow. A few years ago I tried growing a mesclun salad mix and the one plant that seemed hardy in the lot was Mizuna so I decided to go with that. Mizuna is a Japanese vegetable from the cabbage family. It has delicate leaves with a light mustard cabbage flavor. It is very versatile and goes well in green salads as well as in soups and stir fries.
Before planting the seeds I gave into actually spending some money on a box of slug bait. Otherwise, I knew from past experience, I would miss a few big chompers in my nightly slug hunt with the scissors. I also perched the container for the Mizuna up on top of a crate to further discourage slugs. Another change was that I used a spray bottle to water the spouting seeds so that they did not get blasted by the hose. I did sew the seeds in the cooler months of late winter thinking that this would be better in our Hawaii weather. My patience was rewarded by lots of healthy Mizuna plants, and to my surprise, the plants are still going strong in the heat of summer some months later. They do get a bit of shade in the late afternoon from the Guava tree.
I have been constantly harvesting individual leaves every few days or so for a salad or sandwich but will also throw a few leaves into my saimin soup. The leaves last well in the fridge for a few days if wrapped in a damp paper towel and put in a plastic bag. It will be interesting to see just how long these plants will hang on for. I read on the internet that Mizuna is biennial and will self sow seed so we will see what happens Meanwhile, I am very happy to have at least one good supply of salad greens.
PS Feb. 2017
So this plant is almost a year old now and still going strong. Well that is, a few of the plants are still going strong. The many small plants have been thinned out by me and by nature's selection to just three very large and strong plants that have bigger and longer leaves. These three plants keep me well supplied with greens and I am still a big fan of this plant and am recommending it to everyone. Here is a picture of one of the plants. All three are in one big tub container. The white root gets very large and fat.. I have had to watch out for those tiny round snails lately....the ones about the size of your small fingernail. The plant does tend to wilt very easily even though I usually water it every 2 or 3 days. In fact it really collapses down under the mid day sun which really had me worried. However, after doing this for weeks and still looking perky by late evening I am just letting it go. If the container was not so heavy I might have moved it into heavier shade but now I figure the plant can handle it. It just means that I need to pick my greens in the early morning.
PS July 2017
Sorry to announce that this plant died on me a few months ago. Somehow the holes in the bottom of the container were not draining properly and after a major rain storm the poor plant suffocated in the water. I will be growing it again when the weather gets cooler.
This summer my Mizuna is doing much better and has been going for several months now. I moved the container from full sun to partial sun under the curry leaf tree that protects it from the hot late afternoon sun. I inspect the plant daily every morning...picking off the old leaves, removing any of those tiny little round snails that seem to like it, and picking the nice bigger leaves to wash and store in the refrigerator for lunch. It is still one of my favorite greens.