Bountiful Brassicas

Fall harvest at Long Hungry Creek Farm is filled with Brassicas, more commonly known as the mustard family. It includes some of the healthiest and most widely grown crops throughout the temperate regions of the world. Some of the brassicas that we grow are mustard greens (of course), kale, mizuna, arugula, napa cabbage, michihili cabbage, turnips, turnip greens, radishes, daikon radishes, kohlrabi, bok choy, tatsoi, and collard greens. Some other common brassicas that we do not grow are broccoli, cauliflower, horseradish, head cabbage, watercress, Brussels sprouts, and canola (also known as rapeseed).

Mustard seed also makes the popular condiment mustard, horseradish is the grated root of the plant, and many of these plants are eaten as sprouts, taking advantage of all the enzymes and unique chemicals present at the moment of germination. Wasabi is a Japanese horseradish root, and despite its popularity on the side of every sushi order, it is rare to find the real product. The green paste we are used to eating with our sushi is a processed wasabi powder with ground mustard, cornstarch, and food coloring.

All members of this family are non-toxic, meaning the large variety of wild mustards are all edible as well, though some are more palatable than others. Nashville Mustard dots the sides of roadways and interstates in the springtime with bright yellow blooms, and Dame’s rocket is purple and everywhere in early summer. All brassica flowers have four petals, and the seed pods are often long and thin with small round seeds inside. Some of the more obscure wild mustards include sheperd’s purse, poor man’s pepper, garlic mustard, toothworts, and hoary bittercress.

Watercress has to be one of my favorite wild edibles. It is spicy and tender, and is considered by many to be a superfood, containing such a high concentrations of valuable nutrients, trace minerals, and antioxidants. It grows along moist bamks and in the shallows of creeks and streams throughout Tennessee. It is best in the spring before it goes to seed, and then again in the fall, when it reasserts itself after the high heat of summer.

If you intend to forage some wild watercress, be sure you consider the quality and source of the water it grows in and around. If you wouldn’t drink the water, than you have to make sure you are harvesting parts well above the water line, accounting for any recent heavy rains or floods that might have contaminated the parts you wish to eat. If you know someone with a potable spring, start there.

This Week’s Harvest: Mixed Winter Squash, Bok Choy, Chard, Tomatoes, Peppers, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Basil, Parsley

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