Plant Now for New Year's Day Celebrations Plant Year-round for Every Day Use

Commonly planted to be used for New Year's Day feasts by local Japanese, mizuna (pronounced meezuna) is a plant well suited to year-round production in local vegetable gardens. But if you want to have mizuna for January 1 you need to plant seed soon - it takes 40 to 60 days to grow to maturity.

The scientific name for mizuna is Brassica rapa var. nipposinica or var. japonica. It is closely related to the leafy turnips. Other common names are Japanese mustard, kyona, mizuna mustard, and pot herb mustard. In Japanese mizuna means "water/juicy vegetable." It probably is native to China but it is best known as a Japanese vegetable. It has been grown and used in Japan since ancient times.

Mizuna is really a pretty plant. It forms a rosette of leaves that are usually a light to dark green color with a white midvein. The leaves are finely divided and feathery, looking something like fern fronds. The leaf stalks are relatively short and slender, white and juicy. The clumps get about 9 inches tall and can spread to a diameter of 18 inches.

Mizuna is naturally a vigorous, healthy plant, growing back readily after cutting. Mature heads of older varieties can weigh a little more than 2 pounds, but newer varieties can weigh up to 13 pounds.

Mizuna is both cold- and heat-tolerant, making it perfect as a salad crop in Hawai'i, growing well at all elevations in all seasons. It can tolerate wet conditions, doing well in Hawai'i's wet winters. It is not quite as tolerant of drought conditions, but with regular irrigation and the use of mulch, it grows equally well during the summer months. In dry conditions it ma y go to seed prematurely or produce very tough foliage.

Full sun is best for mizuna in the winter months, but in summer it Mizuna can tolerate some light shade. It is tolerant of a wide variety of soils as long as the fertility is fair and the moisture-holding capacity is fair to good. Water often enough to keep the soil moist or use mulch to decrease the amount of watering you need to do.

Mizuna can be harvested as seed-lings, as semi-mature and as mature plants. It responds well to cut-and-come- again treatment - removing all the leaves for culinary purposes and allowing the plant to grow new leaves. Sow seeds directly into the garden or start plants in pots or cell packs for future transplanting to the garden. It takes about two to three weeks for seedlings to grow large enough for transplanting.

You can plant any time of the year but if you are planting with the intent of using the crop for New Year's Day celebrations, you should plant in the first two weeks of November. Given proper care, a good crop will be ready by January 1.

If you only want small plants, space the plants about 4 inches apart. For medium-sized plants that will be cut frequently, space the plants 8 to 9 inches apart. To get larger plants, space the plants 12 to 18 inches apart.

Plant mizuna among other crops if you practice intercropping methods in your garden. It works very well with other brassicas such as broccoli and cauliflower, since it can be harvested while those plants mature. In the summer, use mizuna between rows of corn. After the corn has been harvested, the mizuna can continue to be harvested for several months.

Pot Culture
Mizuna lends itself quite well to growing in pots. Choose a pot size depending on the size you
want your plant to grow. A 4- inch pot is adequate for small plants but to allow the plant to
grow to its potential, use a 1-gallon pot or larger. One plant per gallon pot will produce
enough leaves for several salads a month. Use more plants for more production. Water regularly
to keep the soil moist and place the pot in full sun or in partial shade.

Mizuna can be harvested and eaten at any stage. Even the flower spikes are edible. It has a mild flavor with a touch of spiciness. The younger leaves are the most tender, older leaves eventually getting fibrous.

Use mizuna in salads as an addition to lettuce leaves, or even as a replacement. Use freshly cut
leaves as a garnish to brighten up a dish. Cook mizuna as you would other oriental vegetables.
It can be stir-fried alone or with other vegetables or meat, poultry or fish. Mizuna can be used as a stuffing for chicken, fish or seafood. When cooking mizuna, keep in mind that the stalks take
a little longer to cook and should be separated from the main leaf and cooked a little longer.

Mizuna can also be pickled. To pickle mizuna wash the leaves and tap dry or spin in a salad
spinner. Sprinkle a bowl with salt and cover with a layer of leaves. Sprinkle salt over them and add another layer of leaves, sprinkle with more salt and repeat until all the leaves are used up. Sprinkle salt on top and weigh down. Use a plastic bag filled with water as a convenient, form-fitting weight. Let sit for 12 hours. Don't let it sit for longer than 12 hours or the flavor will be ruined.

Landscape Use
Mizuna is quite ornamental, as well as being a useful vegetable. In a flower bed it makes a nice
border, the cushion of fern-like foliage making a nice contrast to taller flowering plants. A mass
planting of mizuna makes an attractive and useful groundcover. It won't handle foot traffic, but
can easily fill an area in a short amount of time. Mizuna also works well as a border along
walkways. Potted plants can be placed in ornamental cache pots and used as accent plants to a
lanai display.

Mizuna grows very fast. The first harvest can be done in 2 to 3 weeks. This initial harvest consists of thinnings taken to make room for larger plants. After that, harvest the outer leaves as
needed if you have several plants, or in two months cut the plant back to harvest all the leaves at once. Make sure you don't cut below the growing point, or the plant will be killed. Cut the leaves just above the growing point and in two more months you can repeat the process. This can be repeated up to five times over about 10 months time.

Mizuna is basically free of pests but it is very tasty to slugs. Protect young seedlings and recently cut plants from slugs.The plants are also susceptible to flea beetles (Systena blanda, Epitrix hirtipennis and others). You can keep flea beetles off your mizuna with woven cloth crop covers, or catch the beetles on grease-covered boards. Control a flea beetle infestation with derris,
pyrethrum or insecticidal soap.