Where are the tomatoes, and what in the world is Mizuna?


we’re kicking off the 2019 Union County Farmer’s Market season by talking about how our food grows and a quick & easy recipe for those leafy greens!

Yes, friends, it is that most lovely time of year - farmers market season, when you can the kiddos in the wagon or minivan and expect to find everything from heirloom tomatoes to sweet corn to pumpkins straight from the field…

Dude, if you’re coming to the market in May looking for tomatoes and sweet corn, you’re in for a rude awakening! And pumpkins? Please.

The farmers market season is just that: a season, and within that season is an ebb and flow of weather conditions that contribute to an ever-changing selection of fresh produce. Depending on where you happen to live, that season may be quite long or very brief or somewhere in between. Here in Central Ohio, the average last frost date doesn’t come until around Mother’s Day, so by the time the market kicks off in mid-May, the produce you will find has had to deal with its fair share of cold climates.

Because of the cold and wet conditions, you can not expect to see any fresh vegetables that come as a result of flower pollination - things like tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini (which, technically, makes them fruits rather than veggies, but I digress). Instead, you tend to find ingredients that hang out under or near the dirt. This past Sunday, I saw asparagus, spring onions, green garlic, and an assortment of delicious leafy greens including mizuna.

Mizuna - Japanese mustard green

I first became acquainted with mizuna a few years ago when my family was growing dozen of varieties of heirloom vegetables and herbs out on our farm. I remember seeing the beautiful, lush green carpet of mizuna growing in the field; we planted way more than we could possibly eat or sell at the time. So imagine my happy surprise to see one of my community members, Marc Fencil, who has started his own farm specializing in Asian greens and vegetables, with bags upon bags of the stuff at the market. I couldn’t wait to tell folks about it!

Mizuna is a type of mustard green similar in shape and flavor to things like arugula or dandelion greens (yes, you can eat them, too). It’s flavor is slightly pungent, a little peppery, with a unique smokey quality that makes it great in a salad mix. Eaten by itself, the flavor can be a little intense, which is why I demonstrated how to make a warm bacon vinaigrette to help mellow it out and take some of the edge off it (oh, and everyone loves bacon).

Wilted Arugula Salad

Cookin' with Kibby UCFM Arugla Salad.jpg

loosely based on Michael Ruhlman’s Warm Arugula Salad with Bacon and Poached Eggs recipe, which can be found on Serious Eats or in his book, Ruhlman’s Twenty.

Servings: 3-4
Total preparation time: 20 minutes

4 strips of bacon
2 bulbs of green garlic or green onion, greens removed, thick greenish-white parts finely minced
2T white balsamic vinegar
5oz fresh baby arugula or mizuna

1) Lay the strips of bacon into a large oven-safe saute pan and place in an oven preheated to 350 deg F. Bake for about 15 minutes or until bacon is crispy.

2) Move the pan carefully to the stove top and remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel; try to leave as much of the rendered bacon fat in the pan as possible. Crumble the bacon or chop.

3) Place the pan over medium heat and cook the minced garlic or onion in the bacon fat briefly, about 15-20 seconds.

4) Immediately pour the contents of the pan into a large mixing bowl. Add vinegar and whisk together, then add leafy greens and bacon and toss to coat and combine with a set of tongs or a gloved hand. Serve.