Foodies aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a range of mustards.
Along with those gourmet pots of the popular condiment that are made from the seeds, with flavors like “champagne” and “honey Dijon,” gardeners can sample all sorts of mustard greens when they grow their own supply.
And while the spreads complement sandwiches and roasts, the spicy broadleaf or Asian leafy greens offer substantial nutrition and delicious flavor in stir fries, stews, and salads.
But before we talk about eating them, let’s talk about growing mustard in your garden. The first step there is choosing a variety that does well in your area and appeals to you.
I personally am a big fan of ‘Red Giant,’ because I’m always fond of anything that grows fast, gets tall, and tastes great.
‘Red Giant’ provides leafy ingredients for many dinners, with plenty left over for freezing, all from a single packet of inexpensive seeds.
I’m the first to admit, though, that there are many other appealing options. Other gardeners’ top choices may be smaller, sweeter, spicier, or have a different leaf texture than my old favorite.
Coming up, I’ll be sure to give other varieties equal time with ‘Red Giant.’ I’ll also help you decide which one is best for your garden, whether you’re contemplating baby leaves, microgreens, mature heads, or even homegrown green manure.
First, I want to be clear on one point:
When you think of mustard greens, you may be thinking of something different than what’s immediately called to mind by your neighbor, spouse, or that chef whose cookbook you’re thumbing through.
“Mustard” varieties are all part of the Brassicaceae family and Brassica genus, but they may be a part of the B. juncea, B. rapa, B. nigra, B. hirta, or Sinapis alba (formerly B. alba) species.
Some grow giant leaves, the type most common in Southern cooking.
Others have serrated or frilly leaves, or are standouts in the Asian greens category.
A few combine one or more of these traits.
Happily, most of them are easy to grow and have similar requirements, which you can read more about in our growing guide.
But here, I’ll concentrate on sharing useful information about how fast different types grow, what they’re used for, how they taste, and what texture the leaves have.
These are 13 of the best varieties to consider for your garden.
13 Top Varieties of Mustard Greens to Grow at Home
This open-pollinated, blue-green B. juncea cultivar hails from Africa, which is how it got the nickname “Ethiopian kale.”
But technically, it’s a mustard, and one of the mildest. And like the rest of the varieties recommended here, it’s easy to grow.
The baby leaf harvest starts just three weeks after direct sowing, so have your salad bowl ready. At 45 days, they’re fully mature and large enough to toss into the steamer, wok, or stew pot.
‘Amara’ seeds are available in packets of 500 from David’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.
2. Florida Broadleaf
This one is a gentle giant, with its subtle hint of spice and ability to grow as tall as 25 inches in just 45 days.
I like to add shreds of B. juncea ‘Florida Broadleaf’ to my special cheddar and green onion grilled cheese on sourdough bread, but maybe that’s just me.
Most folks eat them sauteed or stewed in broth or with some sort of pork flavoring, like bacon salt, country ham, or smoked ham hocks. Us Southerners call that a “mess of greens.”
‘Florida Broadleaf’ seeds are available from Eden Brothers in packets of various sizes.
3. Green Wave
B. juncea ‘Green Wave’ is to mustard greens what ballpark yellow is to the condiment made from the seeds.
Reliable and tasty, it’s just medium-hot, with very quick-growing green ruffled leaves.
You can pick the small leaves for salad greens at 21 days, and the jumbo mature leaves are ready in 45 days.
Steam or saute full-size ‘Green Wave’ picked from the garden, and it will become more savory and not as sharp as it is when raw.
And ‘Green Wave’ is a season stretcher, slow to bolt and quite cold tolerant.
You can find ‘Green Wave’ seeds available from True Leaf Market.
This cultivar of B. juncea is sold especially as a green manure cover crop. You plant it as a soil builder following spring, summer, or early fall crops.
It grows really fast, providing a biomass that will keep weeds from establishing a stronghold in any season. The deep roots also prevent soil nutrients from eroding in heavy rain or strong winds.
And ‘Kodiak’ keeps on giving. When it’s done covering the soil to benefit the next crop, you can chop the leaves fine with a hoe or clippers, and then turn the whole plant under the soil for added aeration and to encourage earthworms.
Perhaps most exciting of all, this mustard provides a natural way to suppress unwanted nematodes in the soil.
It’s not too tasty, but with all those other pluses, it doesn’t need to be. Save the space in the veggie patch for other edible varieties, and put this one to good use in other ways.
‘Kodiak’ seeds are available from Renee’s Garden via Amazon.
There are some unusual varieties of mizuna (sometimes spelled “mizunu”), but a lot of what you’ll see for sale is simply this basic variety.
B. rapa var. japonica has bright green, serrated leaves that grow from thin stalks, and it adds a touch of wasabi heat to pizza, stir fries, or salads. Big harvests are also great for adding to homemade juice.
The plants adore full sun, and will spread 12 inches and reach about 16 inches tall in a speedy 30 to 45 days.
This peppery fast-grower has another advantage, too: It’s a “cut and come again” variety, so you can have your stir fry ingredients growing on a continual basis.
Mizuna seeds are available from Burpee.
6. Osaka Purple
B. juncea ‘Osaka Purple’ is quite the 21st-century foodstuff pepper-upper.
It adds bite to a microgreen mix, for example, both as a sushi garnish or part of mesclun mix drizzled with vinaigrette. And its verdant leaves with their purple highlights add some color, too.
It will grow four to six inches tall in a matter of weeks, and you can harvest it then for salad or a veggie saute.
That pretty purple can inspire lots of kitchen experimentation. Consider starting by using ‘Osaka Purple’ to replace the beet greens in this recipe for sauteed fresh garlic greens from our sister site, Foodal.
You can find ‘Osaka Purple’ seeds available at True Leaf Market.
7. Purple Wave
This open-pollinated B. juncea cultivar taps the best of its two parents,’Osaka Purple’ and ‘Green Wave.’
It boasts that appealing light purple color and frilled leaves. The taste is hot, not in a shy way.
And like the other “wave” types of mustard greens, ‘Purple Wave’ grows big and bold in a hurry.
You’ll be able to pick plenty of heaping helpings from just a few plants, so plan to have seconds!
You can find ‘Purple Wave’ seeds in a variety of packet sizes available at True Leaf Market.
8. Red Giant
This was the first type of mustard I ever watched grow in my own backyard. It seemed like one day it was baby leaf, the next it was plate-size.
I was a little tentative sampling that first outsized magenta leaf, but I’ve grown quite fond of the spicy bite and the crinkly leaves.
They grow so quickly, reaching full maturity in 40 days, that I’ve never had time to pick the smaller leaves to use in a salad.
But I understand they’re great enjoyed young in salads, and I know from experience that they make a tasty steamed side dish or stir fry.
I also like to mix a few leaves with fresh homegrown spinach to spice up a homemade crustless feta quiche.
And this variety is definitely the procrastinator’s friend. You can plant seeds ahead of the last frost in spring, or wait through the entire summer and plant them just a few weeks before the first frost in autumn, and still get a bonanza harvest.
That’s a boost if you didn’t plant enough in summer, or can’t wait to sample something green (okay, dark red!) in early spring.
B. juncea ‘Red Giant’ seeds are available from True Leaf Market.
9. Red Tatsoi
Tatsoi forms sweet rosettes that are almost too pretty to eat. In red, those floral shapes are even more appealing as ornamentals.
But you’ll want to nosh on this Asian green, B. rapa var. narinosa, too.
The leaves are crispy with a mild bite. They’re delicious in salad when young, or stir fried when they’re more mature. And the ribs are crunchy with a note of celery flavor.
This one does take a bit longer than the old-fashioned giant mustards to reach maturity, usually about 60 days. If you’re impatient, grow this as a microgreen, ready just 7-10 days after sowing.
While it won’t overwinter, ‘Red’ tatsoi is still cold-hardy. You can pick a few leaves from the garden even after the first snow.
‘Red’ tatsoi seeds are available from True Leaf Market.
10. Rosette Tatsoi
This is mustard at its mildest – and most beautiful. B. rapa var. narinosa ‘Rosette’ is an heirloom that grows foot-wide rosettes with deep green, spoon-shaped leaves.
The greens are tender and sweeter than most Asian greens, with just a touch of tangy flavor. Some gardeners like to plant the gorgeous rosettes as part of an edible landscape – they’re that pretty.
Grab a packet of ‘Rosette’ tatsoi seeds from Renee’s Garden via Amazon.
I love spinach, but I’m not a huge fan of its super-short growing season here in the South. If I plant it in March, it bolts by late April.
This variety, often called Japanese mustard spinach, (B. rapa var. perviridis) fills in for the early bolter.
The smooth leaves grow quickly, ready in 35 to 40 days. But they’ll stick around weeks longer than spinach, being particularly heat- and drought-resistant.
They’ll grow tall, almost two feet, without losing their flavor.
As for the taste of ‘Tendergreen,’ known as Komatsuna in Japan, it does have some spice, but it’s more of a nudge than a kick.
Mostly, ‘Tendergreen’ produces sweet, tender, fleshy leaves you can use in any recipe that calls for fresh spinach.
You can also blanch it and pop a few cup-size bags in the freezer to have a spinach substitute for dips, quiches, and such.
‘Tendergreen’ seeds are available from Burpee.
12. Tokyo Bekana
This B. rapa var. chinensis is a favorite for microgreens, baby greens, and a variety of uses in Asian cuisine. It’s a far cry from what you might be expecting if you grew up eating greens stewed in big pots with beans.
‘Tokyo Bekana’ is crunchy and light, resembling pak choi more than mustard greens like ‘Florida Broadleaf.’
I like the ruffled leaves, the light green color, and the fact that it will tolerate light frost, which isn’t true of all Asian greens.
‘Tokyo Bekana’ seeds are available at True Leaf Market.
Also known as “Wasabina,” this green should never be confused with a bona fide Japanese wasabi root. It does deliver a similar punch in flavor as the popular sushi condiment, however.
Mustard wasabi, B. juncea var. wasabi, can add zip to your microgreen mix, and it’s a fast starter. You can expect to harvest two- to three-inch sprouts just 10 days from planting.
Or let the leaves mature, a process that takes about 45 days, and use them fresh in spring rolls, stir fries, or as part of a braised pot of pork-enhanced Southern-style greens.
Like its namesake, it’s not for those who have mild tastes. Wasabi is hot from the day it sprouts to the day you tote the leftovers to the compost.
You can find seeds available in a variety of package sizes from True Leaf Market.
Colonel Mustard, In the Garden, With the Hoe
Just like that Clue game, picking one of these varieties can involve lots of decisions.
My solution to the ever-increasing demands on my garden space? I grow a couple in the spring, and then a couple more in the fall.
I may even put one in a container in the cool months, when it’s not too tough to keep up with the watering.
What about you? Do you have a favorite type, or tips for growing these spicy veggies? If so, ketchup with the comments section below! (I am also amazed I made it this far and this is my first pun…)
And for more information about mustard greens, check out these guides next:
- Health Benefits of Mustard Greens
- How to Save Mustard Green Seeds for Planting
- Best Companion Plants to Grow with Mustard Greens (coming soon!)
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Burpee, David’s Garden Seeds, Eden Brothers, Renee’s Seeds, and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Rose Kennedy
An avid raised bed vegetable gardener and former “Dirt to Fork” columnist for an alt-weekly newspaper in Knoxville, Tennessee, Rose Kennedy is dedicated to sharing tips that increase yields and minimize work. But she’s also open to garden magic, like the red-veined sorrel that took up residence in several square yards of what used to be her back lawn. She champions all pollinators, even carpenter bees. Her other enthusiasms include newbie gardeners, open-pollinated sunflowers, 15-foot-tall Italian climbing tomatoes, and the arbor her husband repurposed from a bread vendor’s display arch. More importantly, Rose loves a garden’s ability to make a well-kept manicure virtually impossible and revive the spirits, especially in tough times.