Jane’s easy way to spice up a win­ter pud­ding

NZ Lifestyle Block - - In Jane's Garden -

ALONG WITH the fresh fruit avail­able in mid-win­ter, the ad­di­tion of stored ap­ples, dried nashi and figs, plus frozen ap­ples and peaches cre­ates plenty of choice when it comes to win­ter pud­dings.

My pud­dings are usu­ally baked or stewed or some kind of thrown­to­gether sponge top­ping, plus plenty y of this spice mix. I add this to many things, in­clud­ing a tea­spoon­ful in my morn­ing cof­fee. method Mix them all to­gether in the ap­pro­pri­ate sized jar and add to any­thing you like, in­clud­ing cof­fee, tea, pud­dings, cakes, pies, loaves and whipped cream.

Ilike try­ing new things in my vege gar­den, but de­spite a care­ful pe­rusal of the Kings Seeds cat­a­logue, I missed ko­mat­suna. Joy Lark­com, writer and the queen of Bri­tish veg­etable grow­ing, felt ko­mat­suna de­served the award for most un­der­rated veg­etable and that’s when I went hunt­ing. A Google search backed up her en­thu­si­asm, with many gar­den­ers call­ing it their favourite win­ter green.

One writer said ko­mat­suna ( Bras­sica rapa var. per­vidis or B. rapa var ko­mat­suna) was ‘tough, im­per­vi­ous to the ef­fects of all but the worst of weather and an ideal crop for cold cli­mates.’ Other ac­counts spoke of it hap­pily sur­viv­ing -12°C or worse, and some­one else spoke of a ‘ten­der, melt­ing, bright-green sweet mus­tardy treat.’

Ko­mat­suna is rated by its fans above other Ori­en­tal bras­si­cas such as mizuna and bok choi in ten­der­ness, mild­ness, and ver­sa­til­ity, and it’s less likely to bolt in spring and au­tumn.

It seemed a good match for the no­to­ri­ous cross-sea­sonal tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions of our mid-can­ter­bury cli­mate, not to men­tion the win­ter blitzes of sleet and snow. In March I bit the bul­let and paid the ex­tra freight for a sec­ond seed or­der, top­ping it up with a few un­in­tended tasty treats. At that time the grow­ing sea­son was fast evap­o­rat­ing so I sowed them as soon as they ar­rived. As so of­ten hap­pens with this sort of spon­ta­neous gar­den­ing, this was the same time the cold weather ar­rived.

I need not have wor­ried. My brave lit­tle ko­mat­suna seedlings burst through the ground un­de­terred, their shiny, bright green leaves bounc­ing through the first frosts with­out miss­ing a beat. The growth soon out­stripped the neigh­bour­ing spinach plants and I looked for­ward to my first ko­mat­suna feast.

Alas, I was too ea­ger, too soon. The cab­bage white but­ter­flies took a great deal of in­ter­est in the new­comer, pre­fer­ring them to the mus­tard plants nearby. At light­ning speed, my healthy ko­mat­suna be­came ho­ley ko­mat­suna, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a cou­ple of doses of der­ris dust.

After the cater­pil­lar episode, things im­proved. About six weeks after sow­ing and a few light frosts later, the fo­liage started to harden up, but not so much that I couldn’t still nib­ble young leaves straight off the plants. The taste was very mild, with a slight bite, but much less than rocket or mus­tard.

As plants ma­ture, the leaves de­velop more of a ‘kick’, get­ting hot­ter and the stems de­velop a crunch and stringi­ness. Some say frosts sweeten the taste.

The Amer­i­cans call ko­mat­suna ‘mus­tard spinach’. The flavour has been var­i­ously de­scribed as a mus­tard-spinach cross, or mild-mus­tard cab­bage. But ko­mat­suna is nei­ther a spinach or a mus­tard, though it is a mem­ber of the bras­sica fam­ily. It is high in cal­cium, vi­ta­mins A and C, and con­tains more iron than spinach.

Ko­mat­suna grows quickly, like its mus­tard cousins, and it was soon clear I would need con­tin­u­ous sow­ings to have

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