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Salad plants

Mustardy marvel

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The sharp lemony flavour with hot peppery aftertaste make this mustard a winner, writes Penny Woodward.

This fabulous red mustard (Brassica rapa ’Ruby Streak’), also known as mustard ruby streaks, has been producing delicious leaves in my garden for a while now. It’s tough and survives intense heat really well, you just need to water regularly or the leaves can become bitter. A finely divided salad leaf, Ruby Streaks can grow as tall as 60cm but is usually a bit smaller. The leaves have a sharp lemony flavour with a hot peppery after taste. I graze on it fresh from the garden, add handfuls to salads, chop it and combine with soft cheeses on biscuits, or put it into sandwiches. Older leaves are great in stir-fries if added at the last minute. The peppery flavour combines well with crunchy cos lettuces and juicy cucumbers, giving a flavour punch. The more leaves you harvest the more they will grow. Lime streaks mustard has bright lime-green leaves and a similar flavour, but I think the red-leafed form has the edge.

Plants are easily grown from seed planted for most of the year, or plants can be purchased in most nurseries. Full sun or partial shade is fine and they like a reasonable soil with good drainage. If you dig in some compost before planting, plants will grow more rapidly. I also water mine with diluted seaweed extract every couple of weeks during the growing season. Once the weather starts to cool, I’ll be planting some more by collecting seed, although you’ll usually find that some will self-sow as well if you let them flower. You should let them flower, even if you don’t want to collect seed, as the flowers also attract beneficial insects into the garden.