Red Mizuna Lettuce
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Red Mizuna greens are small to medium in size, averaging thirty centimeters in height, and grows in bunches from a central stalk with slender stems and feathery leaves. The thin stems are light green to magenta and are long, offering a firm, crisp texture. The smooth leaves are red-purple, multi-branched, and have serrated edges with a fringed appearance. On the underside of the leaf, some varieties have green undersides and dark purple veins, while others have varying shades of red, purple, and green. Red Mizuna lettuce is harvested at both the baby lettuce and mature stages, with the younger leaves being more tender and milder and the older leaves offering a peppery, piquant, and mildly bitter taste with a hint of sweetness.
Red Mizuna is available year-round.
Red Mizuna, botanically classified as Brassica juncea, is a hybrid variety of the Japanese heirloom green and is a member of the Brassicaceae or cabbage and broccoli family. The name Mizuna means “water greens” in Japanese, and these greens are traditionally grown in the cooler, wet climate of the Kyoto prefecture in Japan and are cultivated in shallowly flooded fields. There are several named varieties of Red Mizuna lettuce, including Red Streaks and Beni Houshi, and Red Mizuna is a popular green in Asia harvested at various lifecycles including as a microgreen, as baby lettuce, and at maturity for commercial salad mixes.
Red Mizuna contains vitamins A, C, and K, folate, iron, B-complex vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine, calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and manganese. Red Mizuna also has several compounds like glucosinolates, kaempferol, and anthocyanin, which is the red pigment in the leaves, that offer antioxidant benefits.
Red Mizuna is best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as sautéing, stir-frying, and boiling. The young leaves can be combined with other lettuces like spinach, arugula, chard, oak leaf, romaine, and frisee to make mesclun or spring mixes. The leaves can also be layered in sandwiches or mixed in grain bowls, pasta salads, noodle dishes, risotto, stews, or soups. If cooking with Red Mizuna, the leaves should be added at the end of the cooking process to prevent sogginess. Red Mizuna can also be used in recipes calling for frisee or arugula. Red Mizuna pairs well with pomegranate seeds, apples, pears, tarragon, leeks, broccoli, tomatoes, sunchokes, portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, new potatoes, goat cheese, parmesan, poultry, poached eggs, shrimp, salmon, and vinaigrettes. The leaves will keep up to five days when wrapped loosely and stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In Japan, Red Mizuna, like green varieties, is pickled with salt and served as an appetizer or with beer. The peppery greens are also added to hot pot, known in Japan as nabemono, or are traditionally steamed or added to stir-fries. Mizuna is one of the forty-one protected ‘Kyo yasai’ vegetables grown in Kyoto, once the center of politics and culture in Japan, since the 18th and early 19th centuries. These heirloom vegetables were grown in relative isolation and offer bold colors and unique flavor profiles.
Red Mizuna was first developed by Tokita Seed Company in Japan, to offer a red leaf version of the already well-known green leaf mizuna. Today Red Mizuna is most commonly found at local farmer’s markets and specialty grocers in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Recipes that include Red Mizuna Lettuce. One is easiest, three is harder.