How to Store Mustard Greens

Storing mustard greens correctly extends their freshness and maximizes their flavor, ensuring that these nutritious leafy greens can be enjoyed to their fullest.

Proper storage begins with preparation; it is essential to wash mustard greens thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. This not only cleans them but also prepares them for safe consumption.

Mustard greens in a sealed plastic bag, placed in the crisper drawer of a refrigerator

When it comes to drying mustard greens after washing, it’s crucial to remove excess moisture. Excess water can promote spoilage, so it’s important to pat the greens dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

Once dry, inspect the mustard greens and remove any damaged or wilted leaves to prevent them from affecting the rest of the greens.

Fresh mustard greens arranged in a wicker basket, with a damp paper towel covering them to keep them moist. Airtight plastic bag nearby for storage

In storing your mustard greens, maintaining proper moisture levels is a delicate balance. Wrap the greens in a damp paper towel to help retain moisture without making them soggy.

Place the wrapped greens in a perforated plastic bag for airflow, and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator to keep them fresh and ready for your next meal.

Identifying Mustard Greens

When selecting mustard greens, you’re picking from a family of leafy green plants notorious for their peppery, sharp flavor, a kick that sets them apart from relatives like kale and collard greens.

Your typical mustard green has a vibrant, deep green hue, although certain varieties like red mustard greens exhibit a reddish-purple tinge.

Mustard greens, a staple in many cuisines, are characterized by broad, wrinkled edges and a texture that’s a touch more robust than spinach but less so than kale.

When you’re at the market, look for crisp, fresh leaves free of yellowing and with minimal holes or tears.

The quality of mustard greens can be ascertained through these criteria:

  • Color: Look for bright green or red-purple leaves, indicating freshness and high quality.
  • Texture: Mustard greens should feel firm and springy to the touch.
  • Size: Larger leaves are older and typically more pungent. Younger, smaller leaves will offer a milder flavor.
  • Smell: Fresh mustard greens have a peppery scent.

It’s worth noting that the flavor strength can range based on the variety, with red mustard greens generally having a more intense and robust taste compared to their green counterparts.

When choosing these leafy greens, your end-use is important; opt for the younger, tender leaves for raw preparations and the more mature ones if you’re planning to cook them.

Initial Preparation

Before you store mustard greens for long-term freshness, it’s crucial to prepare them properly. This initial preparation ensures that your greens are clean, appropriately trimmed, and dried, laying the foundation for optimal storage conditions.

Rinsing Mustard Greens

To begin, rinse your mustard greens thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. Gently place the greens under cold running water, swishing them around to dislodge any particles.

For a deeper clean, you can soak the leaves in a mixture of water and a splash of vinegar—a natural disinfectant that helps to eliminate bacteria. Ensure that the water runs clean by repeating this process if necessary.

Trimming Stems and Damaged Leaves

After washing, inspect the greens for damaged or wilted leaves and thick stems. Carefully trim these parts away as they can accelerate spoilage and affect the overall quality of the greens during storage. Focus only on removing the parts that are noticeably damaged or too tough.

Drying Mustard Greens

Once rinsed and trimmed, it’s time to dry the mustard greens. It’s essential to eliminate as much moisture as possible to prevent mold growth.

Using a salad spinner is an effective way of doing this. If you don’t have one, a clean kitchen towel or paper towels can be used to pat dry the greens gently.

Spread the leaves out and lightly press to absorb the water without bruising the delicate greens.

Short-Term Storage

When storing mustard greens in the short term, your goal is to keep them crisp, fresh, and ready to eat. Proper refrigeration is key, as is maintaining a balance of moisture and air circulation. The right techniques can significantly extend the shelf life of your leafy greens.

Refrigerating Mustard Greens

To store mustard greens in the refrigerator, you should first ensure they are clean and free from excess moisture. Place the mustard greens in the crisper drawer, which is specifically designed to hold produce at optimal humidity and temperature.

Using Paper Towels for Freshness

Wrap the cleaned mustard greens in a dry paper towel. The paper towel absorbs any additional moisture, preventing your greens from becoming soggy. This maintains freshness and texture for when you’re ready to use them.

Storing in Plastic Bags

Encase your paper towel-wrapped mustard greens in a plastic bag. To preserve the crispness, use a perforated plastic bag which allows the greens to breathe while guarding against outside odors and dehydration in the fridge.

Maintaining Air Circulation

Air circulation is vital to prevent spoilage and wilting. If you don’t have a perforated plastic bag, you can create small holes in a regular plastic bag to promote airflow.

Additionally, don’t overcrowd your fridge’s crisper drawer; this allows air to circulate around the mustard greens, keeping them fresh.

Long-Term Storage

To preserve the freshness and nutritional value of mustard greens for an extended period, freezing is your best option. Here’s how to do it correctly.

Freezing Mustard Greens

When you freeze mustard greens, you effectively extend their shelf life while maintaining much of their nutritional value.

Begin by thoroughly washing the greens to remove any dirt or debris. Once clean, you must dry them completely to avoid ice crystal formation, which can deteriorate texture and quality.

Blanching Before Freezing

Before freezing, blanch the mustard greens to preserve their color, taste, and nutritional content.

To blanch, boil the greens for 2 to 3 minutes and then promptly submerge them in ice water to halt the cooking process. This step is crucial as it stops enzyme actions which can lead to spoilage even in the freezer.

Using Freezer-Safe Containers

After blanching and drying, pack the mustard greens in freezer-safe bags or airtight containers. Remove as much air as possible before sealing to minimize freezer burn and extend the storage life.

Label the bags or containers with the date of freezing. When properly packaged, cooked mustard greens can last in the freezer for up to 12 months, allowing you to enjoy their benefits long after the growing season has ended.

Cooking with Mustard Greens

Incorporating mustard greens into your recipes not only boosts the nutritional value but also adds a peppery bite that complements a variety of dishes. Your cooking method can greatly influence the texture and flavor of these leafy greens.

Cooking Methods

  • Sauteing: For a quick and flavorful side, sauté mustard greens in a pan. Heat oil over medium heat, then add garlic and onion to the skillet before introducing the greens. This technique wilts the greens and brings out their natural flavor.
  • Steaming: To retain maximum nutrients and achieve a tender texture, steam the greens. Steam for about 5 minutes or until the greens are just wilted but still vibrant.
  • Boiling: If you prefer softer greens, you can boil them. Submerge the greens in boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remember to quickly transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process and preserve their bright color.

Flavor Enhancements

  • Garlic and Onion: Add minced garlic and chopped onion while cooking to infuse the greens with savory depth.
  • Sage: Complement the greens’ peppery flavor with a pinch of sage for an earthy note.
  • Bacon: For a robust taste, cook bacon until crisp, and use the rendered fat to sauté the greens. The smokiness of bacon pairs well with the bitterness of mustard greens.

Combining with Other Ingredients

  • Salads: Toss young, tender mustard greens raw into salads for a spicy twist.
  • Soups and Stews: Chop the greens and add them to soups and stews. They contribute not just hearty flavors but also pleasing texture contrasts.
  • Complementary Ingredients: Balance the sharpness of mustard greens by cooking them with creamy ingredients like beans or sweet vegetables like carrots.

Maximizing Freshness and Nutrients

Storing mustard greens properly is crucial for retaining their freshness and nutritional value. To achieve the best results, follow these steps:

  • Wash thoroughly: Begin by removing the thick stems and rinse the leaves under cold water.
  • Dirt and bacteria can cling to leaves, so make sure they are clean.
  • Dry gently: Use a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  • Excess water can lead to spoilage.

Following these initial steps, your mustard greens are prepped and can be stored to maintain their quality.

  • Blanch if necessary: For longer storage, blanch the greens in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then quickly move them to an ice bath.
  • This process preserves the vibrant color and nutrients.
  • Storage method:
    • Wrap the greens in a damp paper towel to maintain moisture.
    • Place the wrapped greens in a perforated plastic bag to allow airflow.

Finally, store your mustard greens in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator. This environment has slightly higher humidity levels which are ideal for leafy greens like mustard greens.

Vitamins (A, C, K)Supports immune system and blood clotting
AntioxidantsProtects cells from damage
Minerals (Iron, Calcium)Essential for blood health and bones

Remember to consume your stored mustard greens within 3-5 days to enjoy their peak freshness and nutritional benefits, including vitamins, antioxidants, and essential minerals like iron and calcium.

Handling After Cooking

Mustard greens are placed in airtight containers after cooking. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

After you have cooked your mustard greens, the correct handling is crucial to maintain their quality. The texture of the greens is best preserved when proper storage methods are followed.

Storing Leftovers

When you have leftover cooked mustard greens, it’s important to store them properly to keep them from becoming wilted.

First, let the greens cool to room temperature. Then, transfer the greens into an airtight storage container.

Press out as much air as possible before sealing to preserve the texture and flavor.

Immediately place them in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.

Properly stored, cooked mustard greens can last for 3 to 5 days.

Reheating Cooked Mustard Greens

Before you reheat the greens, check for any signs of spoilage.

Once confirmed they are still good to eat, you can reheat mustard greens by:

  • Microwave: Place the greens in a microwave-safe dish, cover with a lid or damp paper towel to retain moisture, and heat on medium power until just warm.
  • Stovetop: Add the greens to a skillet over medium heat with a touch of water or oil to prevent drying out, stirring occasionally until heated through.

Always ensure that the greens reach a temperature of at least 165°F for safe consumption. Avoid reheating multiple times as this can further degrade the texture.

Preventing Spoilage

When you’re dealing with mustard greens, preventing spoilage is essential to maintain their freshness and flavor. Effective storage methods are key to keeping your greens from becoming limp, tough, and bitter.

Washing and Drying:

Firstly, thoroughly wash your mustard greens to remove any dirt or debris. Be gentle to avoid bruising the leaves.

After washing, ensure you thoroughly dry the leaves using a salad spinner or pat them dry with paper towels.

Excess moisture can accelerate spoilage.

Use of Vinegar and Salt:

Adding a splash of vinegar or a sprinkle of salt to the washing water can help kill bacteria and remove stubborn dirt, providing a deeper clean and potentially extending the greens’ shelf life.


  • Wrap the greens in a damp paper towel to retain just the right amount of moisture.
  • Place them inside a perforated plastic bag to allow for air circulation. This prevents the environment from becoming too moist or too dry.
  • Store the bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, which offers an optimal climate for freshness.

Avoiding Damage and Contamination:

Discard any damaged or wilted leaves before storage to prevent them from accelerating spoilage in the healthy leaves.

Consider Canning:

For long-term storage, canning your mustard greens is an option. Ensure you follow proper canning procedures to prevent the risk of foodborne illness.

Creative Uses in Dishes

Mustard greens neatly arranged in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, placed in the refrigerator to maintain freshness

Mustard greens, with their vibrant color and peppery taste, offer a delightful addition to various dishes across cuisines. Here’s how you can incorporate them into your meals:

Salads: Fresh and raw mustard greens can be a zesty base for your salads.

After washing them in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture, chop them up and toss them with a vinaigrette.

Their bold flavor pairs well with sweet fruits like pears or apples, cutting through the greens’ sharpness.

  • Recipe suggestion: Mustard Green and Pear Salad

Soups and Stews: For a comforting meal, add chopped mustard greens to your soups and stews during the last few minutes of cooking.

They’ll wilt down and infuse the dish with a peppery kick without overwhelming other flavors.

  • Recipe idea: Lentil Stew with Mustard Greens

Blend of Cuisines: Drawing inspiration from different culinary traditions, mustard greens can be stir-fried with Asian seasonings, incorporated into Indian curries, or stewed in Mediterranean flavors.

Experiment by substituting mustard greens in recipes where spinach is used, like pasta.

Table of Side Uses:

CuisineDishUse of Mustard Greens
AsianStir-friesSauteed with garlic and soy sauce
IndianCurriesCooked with spices in a thick stew
MediterraneanPasta and StewsWilted into sauces and broths

Remember to always adjust cooking times when using mustard greens due to their quicker wilting compared to heartier greens.

Also, consider the age of the mustard greens; younger leaves are tender and milder, suitable for salads, while mature leaves stand up to the heat in cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Proper storage techniques are essential to maintain the freshness and flavor of mustard greens. Below are answers to some common questions regarding mustard greens storage.

What is the best method for preserving mustard greens in the refrigerator?

To preserve mustard greens in the refrigerator, wash and pat them dry thoroughly.

Store them in a loosely sealed plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. They can last between 1-2 weeks when stored properly.

Can you freeze mustard greens and, if so, what is the appropriate process?

Yes, you can freeze mustard greens.

Blanch the leaves in boiling water for two minutes, then quickly immerse them in ice water.

Drain the greens and pack them in freezer bags or airtight containers before placing them in the freezer.

What techniques can be used to keep mustard greens fresh overnight?

To keep mustard greens fresh overnight, wrap the greens in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. This creates a humid environment that can help maintain their freshness until the next day.

How should you prepare mustard greens for long-term storage?

For long-term storage, clean the mustard greens thoroughly, removing any damaged leaves.

After washing and drying, blanch them, cool quickly in ice water, and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.

What is the recommended duration for blanching mustard greens before freezing?

The recommended duration for blanching mustard greens before freezing is two minutes. This process helps preserve their color, flavor, and nutrients.

What are effective methods to prevent mustard greens from wilting?

To prevent mustard greens from wilting, keep them in a cool, humid environment and avoid leaving them at room temperature for extended periods.

Also, remove any damaged or wilted leaves before storage to prevent them from affecting the remaining greens.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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