Stalking the Waiter

Riffing on foods, flavors and methods, that would be telling.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #24 - Mustard Cress

Probably ten years ago, I bought my mustard cress seeds from Shepherd's Garden Seeds (see farther down for info on them) so I could use the leaves in tea sandwiches for a bit more zip than plain cress. That worked out really well - they tasted great, with their peppery bite and mustard zing.

mustard cress
The leaves in this pic are a little the worse for wear. It was taken in full winter, and it's another herb-like plant that had gone to seed and naturalized. I imagine the squirrels and possums took some sample nibbles but found the leaves too strong for their taste, or the plant would be gobbled off at the ground. I'm not sure whether I'll try transplanting a couple of these volunteers or just wait for their seeds.

I did some Googling and discovered quite a few recipes using mustard cress. It's appparently quite popular in England, and readily available there. Here are some links to recipes that sounded good: Also interesting on that last site, was an explanation, with photos, of how to make that lovely shredded daikon garnish. I could eat a whole bowl of this with wasabi-soy sauce "dressing." It's a pretty good site for recipes, and, if you're traveling to Japan or live there, it has info on restaurants.

A few simple uses for mustard (or any) cress:
  1. in a simple sandwich of tomato or cucumber or chicken or just bread and butter
  2. throw a few leaves into a salad for a little bit of bite
  3. toss individual leaves in a cold shrimp vinaigrette or potato salad
  4. garnish deviled eggs or a deviled egg sandwich
  5. use small sprigs on an herb pizza with Florence fennel and sweet onions

Buy the Seeds

Without spending a lot of time, I only found one source of the seeds, Sand Mountain Herbs. Before buying seeds or other gardening materials online, check the company out at the Garden Watchdog Guide to Gardening by Mail. You can search by company name or by the type of plant/seed you're looking for. Some of the comments on Sand Mountain read like ads, and they have one very negative review, so keep that in mind if you decide to use them.

Shepherd's Garden Seeds - This was a great company for ultra chic veggie and herb seeds. They were one of the first companies to have seeds for true haricots verts or cipolline and various other hard to find European plants and herbs. It was a small operation in Felton, CA. Their beautifully illustrated catalogues and seed packets won awards, and their descriptions were beautiful. It was criminally easy to over-buy, wooed by the lovely descriptions.

I'm not sure why, but several years ago Renee Shepherd sold the company to Whiteflower Farm. It lost a lot of it's chic appeal, and I've heard that service and quality were diminshed. However, I never ordered from Whiteflower, so I have no personal opinion. But, good news, Renee Shepherd has opened Renee's Seeds, still in Felton. You can order online or by phone, but they have no print catalogue. I went trolling for some of the things I used to buy from them, and they're still there, looking just as delicious as ever. I don't know if it's still possible, but you used to be able to order by phone and pick it up in Felton instead of waiting. Worth asking if you live in the area or are going to be visiting.

I'm off to order;
  • Windowbox Basil (love its tiny, peppery leaves)
  • Siam Queen Thai Basil (what a wonderful garnish or salad ingredient
  • Aline Mignonette Strawberries (wonderfully fragant, tiny berries)
  • Edamame Beans (why buy when you can grow and know they are truly fresh)
  • Rolande Beans (true French haricots verts)
  • Romeo Carrots (little round butterballs of carroty goodness)
  • Jewel Toned Beets (seeds for red, yellow and pinwheel beets)

Can't you just picture those Romeo carrots with the baby Jewel Toned beets as a salad, or even freshly steamed or baked. Sweet and colorful. When I lived in San Jose, I had the Rolande beans growing in a planter box on the deck - bush beans require very little growing room. It used to spook my roommate. We'd be sitting there in the evening, enjoying the temperature drop and the peace and quiet. He'd notice that there were tiny little beanlets on the plant, maybe an inch long and very thin. The next afternoon, they'd be full grown. ;+) I love fresh green beans!

I'm getting excited now just thinking about all these goodies. I'm going to be growing them in containers on the deck and trying to figure out some way to shield them from the marauding wildlife. I planted three dozen pepper plants of various kinds in San Jose, along with tomato plants. Between the squirrels, possums and raccoons, there were very few intact fruits for eating. Very frustrating. Up here, we have deer and foxes as well, and, in the summer, when it's dry, there are less edible weeds around, so they raid the veggie garden. I sympathize, but I want my veggies.


At 2:19 PM, Blogger Kalyn said...

I haven't heard of this before. It sounds like something I would like. I love the sounds of the seeds you're ordering. I have to confess, usually I am too lazy to plant seeds and I just buy plants when it gets warmer. But starting plants from seeds can be a lot of fun.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Wait. You can grow strawberries from seeds? (I mean mere mortals can grow them from seeds? I know Mother Nature can.)
Edamame from seeds?
(I had a watercress salad today; might be almost ready for Mustard Cress.)

At 12:47 PM, Blogger sher said...

Wow!! Your post was PACKED with all kinds of neat info. I've never heard of mustard cress. It sounds very interesting. The Bento site is one I'll go back to really explore. And I do remember how cool Shepard's Seeds were, but haven't ordered from them for ages.

At 5:46 AM, Blogger farmgirl said...

This is such a wonderful and informative post. Thanks for all the useful links. I can't wait to check out that Garden Watchdog. And your garden-to-be sounds absolutely scrumptious! : )

P.S. I've seen packets of Renee's seeds for sale in stores here in Missouri. I grew some Genovese basil one year and it did really well. It's funny how many people sell off businesses and then start new ones that are almost exactly the same.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger b'gina said...

Hey, farmgirl! I think it may have been one of those things where the business just got too big and wasn't what she wanted to be doing, on that scale. I've seen a couple people do that (it would be me, if I were in business) - you just want a nice little business that you can enjoy and manage and own, then it grows and you have all this staff, and it grows some more, and the love just isn't there anymore. Guess I better get to writing my WHB post for this week, or I'm going to miss it altogether.

At 4:06 AM, Blogger Saskia Walker said...

B'gina, I'm in the UK and over here a punnet is the small box that mustard cress is grown/sold in, maybe 3 by 5 inches in size.
Crab sticks in the UK can be reformed fish meat made into a stick shape. Hope that helps.

At 11:40 PM, Blogger b'gina said...

Thanks, Saskia. I remember those little things in the market. I was so fascinated by them, I bought one to lug around with me. Of course I ate the lovely little green leaves. The crab sticks sound like something we have here. Thanks for the info. It's good to know what things mean in other places.

At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know an equivalent for mustard cress in the states? Can it be bought in the states? I have a soup cook book that calls for it, but I don't know the equivalent in the United States. Maybe I am just being naive. Found this blog by searching for mustard cress. Any help would be great! Thanks!


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