You probably have a bottle of mustard in your refrigerator, and though it was made from the seeds of a mustard plant, there are several other uses for the plant that most do not know about. Its leaves, usually called mustard greens, are high in vitamins A and C and are used in a wide variety of dishes. Mustard was one of the first domestic crops in Europe, which resulted in its being widely grown throughout the world.
In North America, Oriental, Brown and Yellow Mustard are grown in many regions, though a large number of mustard growers farm in the Midwest. Mustard grows best during cool seasons, and can be planted before spring to grow during the cooler months before summer. It can also be planted in late summer to be harvested in the fall. In both cases, it takes about 50 days for the plants to reach maturity. An annual herb, mustard grows quickly when planted in loamy, fertile soil—it doesn't do as well in sandy soils. If planting mustard, you should take care to keep it away from other plants, as it spreads quickly and can easily overtake other specimens. Seedlings should be spread at least three inches apart to prevent overcrowding. Mustard greens should be harvested when they're young. Allowing the plants to grow to full maturity will result in tough leaves that are hard to cook and eat.
Mustard greens are tasty and can be used in a variety of soups, salads and entrees. They work well on their own or cooked and mixed with other ingredients, such as chickpeas. Their strong, somewhat bitter flavor adds a nice bite and aroma to soups. Though they can be eaten raw, their flavor is quite strong and they should only be used sparingly in salads, with a less flavorful lettuce as a base.