Mizuna and mibuna are Japanese greens with a mildly spicy flavour, for eating raw or lightly cooked. The plants take up little space and are ideal in containers as well as in the ground. Sow repeatedly for generous harvests across most of the year.
Also known as Japanese or oriental greens, mizuna and mibuna are in the cabbage or brassica family. They are fast-growing but compact plants forming leafy
Both are ideal for cropping as
Mizuna forms loose rosettes of attractive serrated leaves up to 20cm (8in) long. These have a mild peppery flavour and can be used raw in salads when small or cooked in stir-fries when larger. If sown repeatedly, mizuna can be harvested almost all year round and makes an attractive crop with a feathery appearance.
Mibuna is similar, but forms larger, denser clumps of narrower, dark green leaves that have a light mustard flavour. Use in salads or lightly cooked.
Sow seeds repeatedly in small batches from spring to autumn, and through winter under glass, for harvests almost all year round. Plants take up little room and crop prolifically. You can even use them as edible edgings to flower borders, especially frilly-leaved mizuna.
For more veg-growing inspiration, visit the RHS gardens, which all grow a wide range of vegetables, including oriental and other brassicas.
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Seeds of mibuna and mizuna are widely available. There are several varieties of mizuna – most have attractive bright green, glossy leaves with a frilly edging, but some have very finely divided, lacy and/or reddish-purple leaves, for an even more decorative addition to both your garden and your salads.
Both mibuna and mizuna are also often included in winter salad seed mixes too.
What and where to buy
Seeds are widely available from most gardening retailers all year round.
Preparing the Ground
Both mizuna and mibuna grow best in slightly damp soil, so dig in lots of well-rotted manure or garden compost before sowing or planting out, to help retain moisture. Hot, dry conditions can cause plants to bolt (flower) prematurely, so in summer choose a cooler site in light shade.
Weed the ground thoroughly, then rake the surface to a fine texture, removing any stones.
When growing in containers, these should be at least 30cm (1ft) wide, as smaller containers dry out too rapidly. Use multi-purpose or soil-based compost, and position containers in sun, or in light shade during hot weather. They can also be sown in growing bags.
Mizuna and mibuna are easy to grow from seed, indoors or outside, in the ground and in large containers. Seeds should germinate in about a week. They can be sown almost all year round, but need protection in winter, ideally in a greenhouse or in mild regions under cloches. They are cool-season crops, growing best in the mild, damp weather of spring and autumn.
For a continuous harvests, sow small batches regularly a few weeks apart – see our guide to successional sowing.
These compact plants are great when space is tight – use them to fill any short-term gaps in your veg plot or borders, or sow in between slower growing crops, such as parsnips and potatoes, for harvesting before the main crop needs the room.
You can sow indoors from February onwards, in small pots or modules, for easy transplanting with minimal root disturbance. See our step-by-step guide to sowing indoors.
Young plants can be moved outside from March onwards, after being gradually acclimatised to outdoor conditions – see our guide to hardening off and our guide to transplanting. Space them 10–15cm (4–6in) apart for salad leaves and up to 40cm (16in) apart for full-sized plants.
Young transplants can quickly wilt in hot weather, so in summer plant them in a cooler, lightly shaded spot and water regularly.
Autumn and winter sowings can be kept in the greenhouse, either in a greenhouse border or in large containers, to crop over winter.
Sow regularly from March to August into prepared ground or containers (see above). It’s best not to sow too early outdoors, as cold temperatures and increasing day lengths can cause plants to flower prematurely.
Sow seeds thinly in shallow drills, about 1cm (½in) deep, spacing rows 23cm (9in) apart.
Protect seedlings from slugs and snails
Thin out the seedlings along the row to prevent overcrowding. Spacing between plants depends on which stage you want to harvest them:
10–15cm (4–6in) apart for regular pickings of small leaves
20cm (8in) apart for harvests of larger leaves
30–40cm (12–16in) apart for picking full-sized mature plants
Both mizuna and mibuna need little maintenance, apart from regular watering in dry spells, especially if growing in containers. Extreme heat and dry conditions can cause stunted growth or bolting (premature flowering).
Water seedlings and young plants regularly. Continue watering whenever the soil or potting compost starts to dry out. Mibuna and mizuna both like damp conditions, and young plants can quickly wilt and die in hot, dry spells.
The best time to water is in the morning, so the plants can grow steadily during the day and won’t dry out. Avoid watering in the evening if possible, as damp conditions overnight can attract slugs and snails.
Spread mulch over the soil to help to hold in moisture and deter weeds. Use a thick layer of organic matter, such as garden compost, and apply to damp ground.
Weed regularly, so young plants don’t get overwhelmed by vigorous weeds or have to compete for moisture or light. Weeds can also provide hiding places for pests, such as snails.
Sooner or later, mizuna and mibuna will naturally try to flower and produce seeds. However, flowering puts an end to harvests, so for continued pickings, try to delay it with the following steps:
crop the leaves regularly
remove any flower stems that start to form
keep plants well watered at all times and shaded in summer – plants will flower sooner if stressed by hot weather and/or drought
If plants do start to send up flower stems, remove these straight away. The buds and flowers are edible and can be added to salads or stir-fries. Harvest the rest of the plant immediately too, if the leaves still taste good, as they will only deteriorate. Other plants in the same row are likely to start flowering soon too, so harvest them promptly.
Mizuna and mibuna can be harvested nearly all year round from repeated sowings, either as cut-and-come-again salad leaves or whole rosettes. You can start harvesting a few baby leaves when plants are just a few weeks old and 8–10cm (3–4in) high.
With cut-and-come again harvesting, you pick just a few outer leaves from each plant, so it continues to grow, providing several small harvests. You may get up to five pickings from a plant before it starts flowering.
Alternatively, you can harvest the whole rosette, using a sharp knife or scissors, after six to eight weeks. Cut about 5cm (2in) above ground level and plants should re-sprout.
Larger leaves have a stronger flavour and more robust texture, so are best lightly cooked – either steamed or stir-fried. The buds and flowers are edible too, either raw in salads or cooked in a similar way to the leaves.
Eat the leaves as soon as possible after harvesting, for the best flavour. They can also be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for a few days if necessary.
Oriental greens are tough and vigorous plants that are relatively trouble free. Being members of the cabbage family, they are potentially susceptible to brassica pests such as cabbage root fly, but they grow so quickly that these are rarely a problem.
Flea beetles can make tiny holes in the leaves, but this is only cosmetic damage and a covering of fleece should prevent it if you wish.
Slugs and snails may eat young seedlings.
Plants may flower prematurely (bolt) in hot, dry weather. To keep them cropping for longer, water regularly, apply mulch and sow in light shade in summer. Or simply sow small batches regularly and remove plants once they begin to flower.
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