Are you interested in some of the lesser known Asian greens? Then you should grow mibuna. This fantastic plant is easy to plant and grow and provides flavorful leaves for salads, soups and more.
It’s a cool weather crop, so if you’re looking for more fresh foods that you can add to your diet, this is the perfect option. Plus, the flavor is rich, complex, and downright delicious.
Whether you grow it indoors as a microgreen or outdoors in the garden, mibuna is a nutritious addition to your space.
Everything about Mibuna
Mibuna (Brassica rapa var. lacinifolia subvar. oblanceolate) is a relative of mizuna and is part of the Brassica group of Asian greens (along with komatsuna). It originates from the Mibu region of Japan and is one of the country’s dento yasai, or traditional greens.
Like its close relative mizuna, mibuna has long, narrow leaves. But unlike mizuna, its leaves are oblanceolate in shape and have smooth edges that are not heavily serrated.
Mibuna is full of vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, iron and folate. If you are someone who loves a fresh salad for lunch, add mibuna leaves for extra nutrition.
If you live in USDA growing zones 4 through 9, you can plant this crop outdoors and anyone can grow it indoors.
There are many cultivars, but most companies simply sell the seeds under the species name. Look for “Green Spray”, “Early”, “Kyoto” and “Purple”.
Growing Mibuna from seeds
You can try growing mibuna outdoors or indoors, so it’s up to you which you prefer when planting your seeds. First, let’s cover the basics of planting this green plant outdoors.
Mibuna seeds germinate quickly, usually in just a few days, so you won’t have to wait long to see the first signs of growth.
The ideal time to grow mibuna outdoors is about two weeks before the last frost.
Place the seeds a quarter inch deep and an inch apart in rich, loamy, well-drained soil. If you have sandy or clay soil, amend it first with well-rotted manure.
If you want to speed up the planting process, you can scatter the seeds, but you will need to thin the seedlings once they emerge.
This is actually one of the benefits of growing mibuna. You can even eat the tiny seedlings as microgreens, so feel free to dig into the seedlings you’re thinning.
If you want to grow large mibuna leaves, you need to thin to six inches between each sowing.
Water the seeds gently (so as not to disturb them) and thoroughly after planting and keep the soil moist until the seedlings emerge.
When growing this green indoors, you can plant the seeds any time of the year.
The most important thing is to choose a six-inch-deep container and space the seeds one inch apart, whether you use individual containers or a seed tray.
Fill the container of your choice with standard potting soil and sow the seeds. Cover with a quarter inch of soil and water well. Place the container in a location where it will receive several hours of sunlight each day. Keep the soil moist but not wet while the seeds germinate.
Growth conditions for Mibuna
Creating the right soil is essential for growing mibuna, as it is with most plants. You should have well-drained, rich, loamy soil. Heavy clay or sand should be amended with organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.
In terms of pH levels, you should aim for between 6.0 and 7.5. You can easily check your soil’s pH with a home test kit or probe, like this one from Justmetr.
For the most part, mibuna grows best in sunny to partly sunny locations where there are between four and eight hours of sunlight per day. In hotter areas, provide more shade. It is a cold-loving vegetable that will warm up.
If you are looking to grow this green in the winter, you can plant it in a greenhouse or cold frame. Those in zones 8 or 9 can grow year round without protection.
Ideal soil temperatures for growing mibuna are between 40° and 80° F, although it can withstand sub-freezing temperatures for short periods. Mibuna is more cold tolerant and less heat tolerant than mizuna.
Caring for Mibuna
Water is crucial for growing mibuna (and all crops). Plants need about an inch of water per week. If you don’t live in an area with frequent rainfall, you should do this by hand to ensure your plant is getting enough moisture.
The best way to tell if your plant needs water is to stick your finger in the soil and see if it feels damp, like a well-wrung sponge. If so, so much the better. No need to add water. If it seems drier, water.
Be careful when soaking the leaves. This can lead to fungal problems if the plant cannot dry out properly. The best way to water mibuna is to soak the soil, not the leaves.
If you like to water your plants with sprinklers, you need to allow enough time between watering and nightfall to give the leaves plenty of time to dry completely before sunset.
Mibuna does not normally need to be fed with fertilizer.
However, there are things you can do to increase the nutrients in your crop. Simply dress with well-rotted manure or compost. This way you can make sure your plants have everything they need without using toxic chemicals.
Indoors, no need to add fertilizer if you have used a good potting soil. Make sure the plant consistently gets around six hours of sunlight a day, but keep it out of direct sunlight in the afternoon heat.
Common mibuna diseases and pests
Here are the most common pests and diseases to watch out for when growing mibuna.
aphids attack mibuna plants (and pretty much everything else in the garden) and can cause a lot of problems if you don’t take care of them early. Usually you won’t notice the bugs themselves, but rather the damage they cause.
Look for yellowing or stippling on the leaves, as well as stunting. You might see a sticky substance on the leaves. This is called honeydew and is the waste that aphids leave behind. This honeydew attracts ants and sooty mold.
Carefully inspect your crop if you see these symptoms to determine if it is aphids. You will likely see small red, orange or green spots moving around on the undersides of the leaves.
Fortunately, a simple soap and water solution can be applied to the infected area to get rid of these parasites.
In addition to aphids, you should also pay attention to cabbage loopers and slugs. Our guide to cabbage loopers can help you solve the problem because these parasites can be devastating.
A few of the diseases that affect mibuna plants are bacterial leaf spot, mildewand white rust. You can prevent these diseases from spreading by being careful with your watering schedule, preparing the right growing conditions, and checking your crop as often as possible for signs of a problem.
We have a guide to controlling bacterial leaf spot that can help you figure out what to do if this disease strikes. We also have an article on late blight.
White rust is a fungus caused by pathogens Albugo gender. It is common on crucifers and causes chalky white blisters to form on the underside of leaves. The leaves may also curl and be stunted.
Spray every few weeks with a copper fungicide as soon as you notice symptoms or if nearby plants are infected. Practice a good crop rotation to avoid it in the first place.
Some gardeners like to plant mibuna alongside other lettuce leaves because you can harvest them all at once to make amazing salads. You can also plant with other cool weather crops like peas, carrots, beets and spinach.
Try not to grow with too many other crucifers, as they tend to share diseases and pests.
You don’t have to wait for the mibuna to mature to eat it. You can take the leaves at any time and new ones will continue to appear until the plant reaches maturity, which takes about 45 days.
Or, you can let them reach full maturity and harvest the whole plant all at once.
It depends on how quickly you want your harvest and whether you prefer to let them grow a bit longer for a richer taste.
All you have to do is cut individual leaves with a pair of garden shears, wash them and prepare them for a meal. Or, cut the entire plant off at the base using a knife or pruner.
You can store mibuna in the refrigerator for up to five days. Wrap it in a paper towel or cotton cloth and place it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
Now that you have your complete guide to growing mibuna at home, you can start using it to cook and sprinkle flavor into your dishes! It can be used both cooked and raw, like most Japanese green vegetables.
You can use mibuna anywhere a recipe calls for mizuna or mustard greens. It has a stronger, more complex flavor than mizuna, which many people prefer.
To inspire you, here are some recipes to try at home:
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