- C. W. Cameron For the AJC
One of the fun things about visiting your local farmers market is the chance to scout the tables for new and interesting vegetables. Farmers know some of their customers are just browsing, hoping something will catch their eye and inspire a delicious dinner.
Alex Rilko of Front Field Farm in Winterville, just east of Athens, was looking for something different for his stand when he ran across a listing for komatsuna in a seed catalog. “We tried it, and once we tried it, we loved it. It’s sort of got the peppery taste of arugula, but it’s not real hot, and it’s got a real nice texture like spinach.”
The “we” is Rilko and his wife, Jacqui Coburn. They’ve been growing komatsuna now for about six years. They sell their produce at the Athens and Sandy Springs farmers markets and through Collective Harvest, a multi-farm community-supported agriculture program that runs from mid-January through mid-November. You can sign up to participate in 2018 by going to www.collectiveharvestathens.com. They also sell their produce to chefs like Hugh Acheson and his Five & Ten and the National restaurants in Athens as well as a local meal kit company, PeachDish.
The couple got into farming nine years ago. “As a kid, I spent as much time as I could during the summer and on weekends on my aunt and uncle’s farm. After we moved to Georgia and my wife quit her job, she began working at an organic farm down the street. … After she worked there two years, she wanted us to start farming like that.”
Komatsuna is a quick-growing crop, taking only 35 to 40 days from seed to harvest. At Front Field Farm, they grow it in the spring and in the fall.
It’s an Asian green, a Japanese mustard in the same family as turnips, mizuna and mustard greens. The young leaves are most often used raw in salads, and the older leaves are nice in a braising mix. At Front Field Farm, they grow it along with other Asian greens like choys, Tokyo Bekana and different kinds of daikon radishes.
As for the komatsuna that’s eaten at home, the couple enjoys it in salads and occasionally will saute it with garlic and onions as a side dish.