You may not know plants like Tatsoi and Red Giant now but once you try these mustards in the cool season landscape you will forever be hooked. The cool season landscape can be both extraordinarily beautiful and edible if you plan your combinations carefully. Flowering kale and cabbage have long held the throne as pansy partners but now these new plants are causing quite a stir as their culinary purposes go far beyond the decorative garnish.
The first I mentioned, Tatsoi is starting to gain a lot press and deservedly so. It not only offers a unique appearance but also has wonderful flavor. I first became familiar with this as a horticulturist with Mississippi State University when we created an ethnic garden for our big fall festival.
Tatsoi's botanical name Brassica rapa gives you clear indication it is related to cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower but it is exotically different.
Though it is a rare plant at most garden centers it is very easy to find in seed catalogs.
Seeds sown in early fall will germinate quickly providing transplants for use in the garden or edible landscape partnered with pansies, dianthus or even other foliage. Tatsoi forms wheel-like rosettes of spoon shaped leaves that are packed with flavor, mild, but perfect fresh for salads mixes or used in stir fry. It becomes quite apparent how it garnered the common name of spoon mustard.
These rosettes reach around 12-inches in width but unbelievably less than 6-inches in height when cool.
Like the other brassicas they are subject to bolting in hot weather. It's this short stature and cold hardiness to 15-degrees that allows Tatsoi to be grown in unique-looking informal drifts with cool season annual color.
As diminutive Tatsoi is in the garden, its relative Red Giant mustard might be considered gaudy. It makes a dramatic statement in the flower border with its 16-inch long, arching maroon leaves. The plant can easily form a 16-inch by 16-inch clump.
When you buy transplants in the fall they really look green but as temperatures get below 60 degrees, the burgundy red begins to develop, making the landscape pop. Colder weather just further enhances the beauty of the foliage.
If these beautiful burgundy red leaves weren't enough to make you go out and buy one today, consider also that the Red Giant mustard is tasty when cooked just like other mustard greens.
Red Giant mustard offers a lot of choices for companion plants, it looks great with orange and apricot colored pansies, as well as those you might consider hot pink.
Dwarf snapdragons like Montego series offer great opportunities for combination plantings. Montegos come in several colors and are actually smaller than the Red Giant mustard. If you want a taller selection, try the Liberty Classic or Sonnet.
Select a site in full sun with fertile, organic-rich soil. If the planting area has tight, heavy clay, amend with compost or humus to loosen. While preparing the soil, incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release, 12-6-6-fertilizer with minor nutrients per 100 square feet of garden. Set transplants of Tatsoi 8-inches apart and Red Giant 12- to 18-inches apart. Be sure and add a layer of mulch.
Even though these thrive during the cool-season, feeding plays an important role in the growing process. Feed with a dilute water soluble mix every three to four weeks. Harvest young tender leaves for best flavor.
You have to admit it is great when the cool season landscape can be beautiful and edible too!