Komatsuna might possibly be the most underrated vegetable ever. What is komatsuna? I’d say most of us have never heard of growing komatsuna greens; I hadn’t. When I read about them, I began to wonder what does komatsuna taste like and how do you grow it. Read on to discover a wealth of interesting komatsuna facts.
What is Komatsuna?
Komatsuna (Brassica rapa var. perviridis) is an incredibly hardy green sometimes referred to as Japanese mustard spinach, although it really isn’t spinach but a member of the Brassica family. It is a biennial that is tolerant of very cold temperatures as well as the heat, although extreme heat may cause it to bolt.
It matures in just 40 days, is drought tolerant, and can be sown and grown year-round in many climates. Oh, and komatsuna plant care couldn’t be easier.
What Does Komatsuna Taste Like?
The plant is utilized for both its tender leaves as well as its flowering stems and can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves can be harvested at any stage and can be snipped one at a time or the entire head can be taken. If you take just a few leaves, they will regrow and extend the length of time you have to harvest.
The flavor of komatsuna is somewhere between that of a mild mustard and cabbage combination. The young tender leaves can be mixed with other greens for salads or use more mature leaves in stir fries.
Additional Komatsuna Facts
Komatsuna is a leafy form of wild turnip and is believed to have been developed from Pak Choi. There are a number of varieties available. Summerfest is preferred for warm season planting, although it is fairly winter hardy as well. Torasan is another komatsuna varietal.
Komatsuna has also been cross bred with other brassicas to create some unique varieties such as Misome, which is a hybrid of komatsuna and tatsoi, and Senposai, which is a cross of komatsuna and regular head cabbage.
Growing Komatsuna Greens
Start seeds early indoors, or sow seed directly in the garden. Most of the varieties get quite large, between 12 and 18 inches (31-46 cm.) tall, but the size is all vertical so they can be spaced fairly close together.
Before you plant, however, komatsuna greens need nitrogen, so amend the soil with compost and use a nitrogen rich fertilizer as the plants mature.
Select a sunny area of well-draining soil. Plant seeds 6 inches (15 cm.) apart and thin to 12 inches (31 cm.). Use the thinnings in salads.
Komatsuna requires very little plant care other than consistent irrigation, occasional fertilizer, and a weed free area. They are prone to flea beetles and, on occasion, caterpillars. Use a floating row cover to thwart these pests.
For a continuous supply year-round, plant small areas in succession.