Jane’s easy way to spice up a winter pudding
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