What's in the Box: Mizuna

Amanda Gormley is the marketing manager and owner service coordinator at the Syracuse Real Food Cooperative, where she enjoys learning about farms, farmers, and food. The Real Food Co-op is located at 618 Kensington Road, Syracuse; call 472-1385 or visit syracuse.coop for more.

In the deepest months of our long, cold Central New York winters, we daydream about the bounties of summer. We ache for the freshest greens, the juiciest fruits, and the most scrumptious vegetables that New York state has to offer. We scour recipes and wait, anxiously, while our CSA farmers begin to tenderly care for the food that will nourish our summer. But inevitably CSA customers will open their box and think, 'what will I do with this?'

Follow 'What's in the Box' this summer and explore Central New York's most baffling CSA offerings.

This week: Mizuna.

On the campaign trail, vegetables have a bad reputation. After suggesting farmers grow alternative crops like the Belgian endive in 1988, Michael Dukakis was attacked by his opponent, Dan Quayle.

"His farm policy is the Belgian endive, and his defense policy is the Belgian waffle," joked Quayle.

In 2008, now-President Obama famously mentioned arugula, and was accused of being an elitist.

What would the pundits say about Mizuna? Its decorative, glossy leaves reek of conceit, but its subtly expressive flavor lands it soundly in the realm of classy. With a gentle bite and a hint of mustard, Mizuna is the softer-spoken cousin to flashy arugula.

Mizuna is known by many names: Komatsuna, Japanese Mustard, and Spider Mustard are a few of its aliases. Despite its delicate appearance, mizuna is no sissy. It's relatively easy to grow, even in Central New York. Given their short growing season, farmers in CNY appreciate the fact that, like other mustard greens, mizuna can be started in greenhouses and harvested early in the spring to satisfy your spring-green craving. If allowed to grow, mizuna matures in the fall and its stems become stalk-like, resembling chard in flavor.

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