Spring is a wonderful - yet often stressful - time of year to be a farmer. The unfolding of a new season is always filled with mixed emotions. The days are hectic but the fast-approaching summer feels like the light at the end of a dark tunnel. The best part about working on our farm during the spring is the promise of a fresh meal and an ice cold beer at the end of a hard day.
My husband and I operate a six-acre organic vegetable farm in Parkdale, Oregon. We grow over 50 different varieties of vegetables that we sell to local restaurants, farmers markets, and to our CSA members. We usually take winters off from farm work and I always look forward to my first bite of fresh spring greens after a few months away from production.
Now that the winter slumber party is over, I am ecstatic about all of our spring bounty. With the abundance of produce popping up around the farm, our dinners have been absolutely wonderful. One of the first spring vegetables making their seasonal debut at our farm is the lovely and flavorful green, mizuna.
If you aren't familiar with mizuna, you are in for a real treat! Mizuna is a Japanese green that is part of the brassica family. It has a mild, peppery flavor with a hint of spice. It is easy to grow, has great germination, and even re-grows again when harvested as cut-and-come-again (just leave about one inch worth of growth at the bottom).
It can handle full sunlight, but prefers a little bit of shade. The only downside to growing this leafy green is that the flea beetles tend to love this stuff as much as we do. (I can't blame them!)
We usually cover our mizuna directly after seeding. However, depending on where you live, the flea beetles may not be as bad. I always recommend asking fellow gardeners/local farmers for advice if you are unsure about potential pests in your area and you are thinking about planting something new or are just starting your own garden. And hey, if you don't feel like getting dirty, don't worry about it. Just run to your local farmers market, pick up a bunch of mizuna, and head straight for your kitchen.
This pasta recipe came to me when I was hungry and craving the mizuna I was harvesting for the farmers market. As it turns out, extreme hunger, dehydration, and too many hours spent hunched in the dirt can result in amazing recipe development!
I hope you all enjoy this pasta dish as much as my husband and I do. It's simple, fresh, and can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes. Pair this pasta with a glass of your favorite white wine and you have yourself a five-star meal that is affordable and delicious. Cheers!
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 4 shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ cups shelled fresh or frozen English peas defrost peas if frozen
- 3-4 cups mizuna lightly packed
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese plus more for topping
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 radishes thinly sliced
- Set a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, according to package directions, until al dente. Carefully scoop out ½ cup of the pasta water and reserve. Drain the pasta.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and peas and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. If you're using fresh peas, they should turn bright green.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add the cooked pasta along with the ½ cup of pasta water. Add the mizuna, crushed red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, and feta cheese and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mizuna begins to wilt, 1-2 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve with sliced radishes and a sprinkle of feta cheese.