When Great Performances CEO Liz Neumark started a farm seven years ago, she asked her farmer not to grow kale. Even back then, she’d grown tired of the all-reigning queen of superfoods. While farmer Bob Walker ignored her request and planted kale anyway, Neumark notes that there are plenty of other greens in the fields that are both fascinating and worthy of the spotlight — tatsoi and mizuna are two prime examples.
Tatsoi is a deep green color with shiny round or oval-shaped leaves.The stems are long and tender, with a snap similar to bok choy. Mizuna, which is related to mustard greens, has leaves that are lighter green with jagged edges. They’re both in season right now and serve as a perfect transition from the tender lettuces of early fall to the hearty brassicas of winter.
Neumark, who recently published the cookbook Sylvia’s Table: Fresh, Seasonal Recipes from Our Farm to Your Family, said there’s plenty of ways to eat tatsoi and mizuna. They’re primarily used in salads, but can also be stir-fried quickly. “[You can add them] in a great vegetable soup at the end,” she said. “You don’t have to cook them as long as everything else. If you cut them into strips and mix them in, they give great color, great texture, and a wonderful fresh flavor.”
The greens also pair well with other fruit and vegetables currently in season. “The tatsoi is a great foil to other flavors such as a citrus, combining it with orange segments or roasted butternut squash,” Neumark said.
As for getting kids to eat the unusual-sounding greens, she joked that the most effective way might be to just dip them in chocolate. Barring that, Neumark reflected that getting children involved in harvesting or cooking with vegetables seems to be effective, as well.
“The first thing we do is have them do the harvesting, and while they’re there picking, they’re nibbling,” she said. “The second thing is if they cook it. Whether they’re slicing it, chopping it for salad, or cooking it up in an omelet or a pasta dish, whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re more likely to eat it. So the tip is: get them involved.”
Try recipes from Sylvia’s Table for Great Greens and Farmers’ Market Salad. Both are below.
Neumark wondered whether a tatsoi pesto would make for a tasty sauce. Have you tried it? If so, how’d it turn out? Let us know in the comments.
Sylvia’s Table Great Greens
- 1 large bunch tatsoi
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove
- Pinch of red chile flakes
- 1 teaspoon butter
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1. Rinse the leaves thoroughly. Remove the tough bottom third or so of the stalk and discard or reserve it for soup or broth.
2. Roughly chop the leaves into 1-inch-wide strips. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Smash the garlic with the red chile flakes, add to the pan, and sauté for about a minute. Scatter in the chopped leaves and cover the pan.
3. Check after about 5 minutes to see if the pot seems dry and add a couple tablespoons of water if needed. With tongs or a spatula, flip the leaves over and cook, uncovered, until they are just tender. Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Sylvia’s Table Farmers’ Market Salad
- 2 large or 3 medium cucumbers
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red or white wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped assorted herbs, such as chervil, basil, cilantro
- 2 cups assorted heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, green and white parts
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup diced radishes
- ½ cup sliced snap peas
- ½ cup fresh peas
- 2 cups mizuna
Scrub the cucumbers, but do not peel them unless their skins are waxed, or peel them in strips. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice the cucumbers crosswise about ¼ inch thick, into half moons. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil in a salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cucumbers and the remaining ingredients, and toss gently; taste and adjust the seasoning.