When Winter comes, can Sarson ka Saag be far behind! The ultimate greens dish, a classic from Punjab in Northern India. Mustard greens are cooked with spinach and bhatua saag and traditionally served with hot makki rotis, though they are great with phulkas or tandoori roti. Actually I like mine with hot rice and rasam!
Mustard greens are an ancient crop, grown in the Himalayan and sub Himalayan regions of the Indian Sub -continent, and have been known to have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. They are a popular ingredient in a wide range of cuisines, from Asian (including Japanese, Chinese Nepalese and Indian) to Southern American. They are generally available during the cold season, from November to March. In India, the Sarson ka Saag, a curry, is the most popular.
I have made sarson ka saag both with the regular Indian greens, and with the peppery pungent and delicious Mizuna or japanese mustard (Brassica rapa). Actually here in Bangalore, it is easier for me to source zero pesticide fresh Japanese mustard greens from First Agro Farms, rather than the sarson ka saag from Northern India, which is not easily available.
Health and Nutrition:
Mustard greens, (Botanical name Brassica juncea) are a veritable powerhouse of nutrients and cancer fighting properties. Low in calorific value (about 27 cals for every 100 gms of raw leaves), they are rich in dietary fibre as well as in phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. The dietary fibre helps control cholesterol. The leaves have been known to have a high content of vitamin K which is an anti-inflammatory nutrient, and Scientists consider that Vitamin K helps in bone mass building as well as in reducing neuro damage in the brain for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
The greens are also a great source for other vitamins such as vitamin A (beta-carotene), Vitamins C, E, B6, B2 as well as minerals, copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and potassium, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate as well as protein.
Cancer fighting properties:
Research suggests that Mustard greens are an excellent source of anti-oxidant like flavonoids, indoles, sulforaphane, carotenes, lutein and zea-xanthin. Nutrition-and-you.com website states that Mustard greens contain Indoles, mainly di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane which have proven benefits against prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
The key phytonutrients in mustard greens or sarson ka saag, are said to give antioxidant support which can help lower the risk of oxidative stress in body cells, thereby reducing cell damage and bringing down a risk factor in development of most cancer types.
Mustard greens helps the body to detox through its antioxidants nutrients, sulfur-containing nutrients and phytonutrients. Toxins building up in the body can increase the risk of cells turning cancerous, and hence consumption of these greens can help to counter the ill effects of toxins.
The other ingredients all contribute to the nutritional values of this tasty curry.
Spinach is again, like mustard greens, a good source of fiber as well as magnesium, which is needed for healthy nerves and muscles.
Ginger, garlic and onions, which are the remaining ingredients, have anti-inflammatory benefits and are high in antioxidants.
Healthy Way To Prepare and Cook Sarson ka Saag:
Select the shoots with crisp, dark green leaves when buying the greens. Before cooking, discard any that are wilted or turning yellow or are spotted.
The leaves are best used within a day or two and stored dry in the fridge in an airtight bag till required, as they easily succumb and wilt if left at room temperatures.
Sautéing or Steaming the leaves could help retain the flavours and nutrients much better than boiling. The best way to cook the sarson ka saag is to pick the young leaves and the tenderest shoots, rinse well in cold running water and drain, and then slice into even sized small pieces. Cut away any thick shoots. Let the leaves stand for 5-10 minutes after draining, and then sauté with a minimum amount of oil on a low flame.