Wild Field Mustard: How to Pick and Process

By | May 18, 2016

This video shows how to identify and pick Wild Field Mustard that’s growing as a weed in your garden, or out in the wild. It also shows how to process the wild field mustard back in the kitchen, so you can use different parts of the plant to eat in different ways. Wild field mustard is one of my top 10 #WildGreens of all time. Wild Field Mustard: Brassica rapa (Brassicaceae – the Mustard Family)

There are a lot of edible mustards out there. They all taste a little different. I’m talking here about the Field Mustard, Brassica Rapa. Its closest relatives are NOT the mustard greens you find at the store! The field mustard is actually what was domesticated into turnips, Napa Cabbage, and rapini.

Just looking at its leaves, #FieldMustard seems so non-descript! How can anybody ever identify it? But there are some easy ways to get started. The bottom leaves of field mustard can get big. They have a big lobe and 1-4 smaller side lobes – and in my experience, they often have these little raised dots that can make the leaves a little rough. But as the plants get older and send up their flower stalks, the upper leaves get smaller, without any lobes. These upper leaves have a pointed tip, and they have a clasp around the stem. That’s distinctively different than other mustards!

When the flower buds open up, they are bright yellow and look like any other flower on a broccoli, kale, cabbage, or collard that’s gone to seed. The flowers are in a cluster and each flower has 4 bright yellow petals in a simple square. When field mustard is in flower, it’s easy to see – even driving on a highway at 60mph. Finding one good sized patch is like finding a $20 bill, there’s so much good eating! There’s no worry about harvesting too much, because in North America, it’s an introduced plant and in some states, it’s even classified as an invasive noxious weed! So harvest away!

Once you recognize wild field mustard, you start to see it in a lot of disturbed areas in the late winter and early spring, even before it flowers. The plants won’t always be big, but there can be a lot of them in one spot. Field mustard is a common weed in many gardens, including my own – but that’s OK by me, because it means I have some good eating way before garden season even starts! And the harvest season is long, because I can harvest the big lower leaves, the flower stalks and the upper leaves, and even the flower buds and flowers. And – I can go back to the same plants and cut over and over and over again! So finding a patch of wild field mustard is really worth something and can provide a lot of food.

Taking the field mustard back to the kitchen, we can be dealing several different parts of the plant. By treating each different part in its own way, we can get a real variety of food. I like to handle the big lower leaves separately. Here you can see their lobes really easily, and those dots and roughness on these lower leaves. There’s nothing wrong with those leaves – that’s the way they are supposed to be. If the center ribs are tough, I just strip them out like in my video on monster dandelion greens. On the other end of the plant are the flowers. You can see their buds and flowers look just like rapini or broccoli raab, or really like any of the other plants in the mustard family when they flower. Those flowers are delicate enough to keep in a separate container in the refrigerator, where they will last for a few days.

Then, there’s the middle part of the plant – the flower stalk and the leaves and buds attached to it. I take the leaves off the flower stalks so I can use those stalks separately. I check to be sure the stalks are still tender, and not tough. The tops are just like rapini or broccoli raab – the thin, tiny broccoli that are on the menu at fancy restaurants. When it’s all the trimming done, I have at least 4 different parts of the wild field mustard that I can use in different ways – the big, coarse lower leaves, the tender flower stalks, the flowers, and the tops of the flower stalks with their unopened buds. The flowers are great in spring salads made out of weeds or leaves from the trees. I use the flower stalk tops just like rapini or little broccolis. I use the big leaves just like collards or turnip greens. Field mustard is not as sweet and mild as collard greens, but they’re NOT hot and spicy like garden mustard greens, either, – and – wild field mustard are not bitter, which some folks don’t like about other wild greens. I freeze the mustard greens in the same way that I freeze collard greens. The field mustard stalks are tasty in a lot of ways, but pickled mustard green stalks are incredibly good!

My playlist on foraging for wild foods: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEGN8kE_KnjBHba1wyw5WWkAu49RoB_-X

My channel: Haphazard Homestead: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcZCvPPU9dgxD0yXrc9DaPA

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