Pickled Garlic Mustard Greens

We spent Saturday participating in a garlic mustard pull in County Farm Park. The goal was wildflower stewardship but we pulled bags and bags of the stuff. I saved a couple of shopping bags of them to make this. from honest-food.net

Pickled Mustard Greens, Chinese Style

Much of this recipe is malleable, but the ratio of salt to water is not: Too much and you kill any ferment, too little and everything can rot. Your nose is a good guide. If your fermented greens stink like rot, don’t eat them. They should have a pleasing pungent smell like a cross between mustard and dill pickles.

I ferment my greens (and pretty much everything else) with this set-up:

  • An old, rimmed baking sheet; old because the salty brine can damage some metal surfaces if it slops over. And it always does.
  • Quart Mason jars for the greens.
  • Narrow jelly jars to keep the greens submerged.

How long is up to you. Minimum 3 days at room temperature, or you will wonder what the fuss is about. A week is good for beginners, but I prefer several weeks or even longer. The longer you go, the saltier and more pungent everything gets.

Once the greens have fermented to your liking, seal the jars and store in the fridge. They’ll last this way for months.

Makes 3 quarts.

Prep Time: 3 days fermenting time, minimum.

Cook Time: n/a

  • 3 quarts water
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt **(I made a batch with this ratio, found it pretty salty. started another batch with a 5% brine which should be fine)
  • 3 to 5 star anise
  • 5 to 10 dried chiles, broken in half
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
  • A 2-inch piece of ginger, sliced thin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons molasses or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds mustard greens, cut into large pieces


  1. Bring everything but the mustard greens to a boil in a large pot. Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. 
  2. Get out 5 quart-sized Mason jars with 5 narrow jelly jars to keep the greens submerged. You need this many because you will only pack the greens in 3/4 of the way into the jars — you want at least 1 inch of brine above the level of the greens. Distribute the solids (chiles, ginger, etc) among the jars (break the cinnamon stick in pieces) and then pack the mustard greens into the jars, again only about 3/4 of the way in.
  3. Submerge the greens in the brine, using a chopstick or skewer to get rid of any air bubbles. Place the jars in the sink and put the narrow jelly jars in them. The brine will overflow but the narrow jar will prevent the greens from contacting the air. Set the jars on the baking sheet and put in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
  4. Let them ferment at least 3 days, or longer. Mold will form eventually. This is normal. I wait until the mold cap is pretty solid, then pick it off. It’s not harmful.
  5. Finish by packing the jars tight with the fermented greens, leaving about 1/2 inch of brine over them. Seal and put in the fridge. They will continue to ferment very slowly, so open the jars every week or two to release pressure. If you want to kill the ferment, boil the brine and cool before packing the jars the final time.