Origin of Leaf Mustard Pickles

The origin of leaf mustard fermentation is hard to trace. It is generally believed that the origin is in the Orient. When Emperor Chin Shih Huang was constructing the Great Wall of

Figure 1 Mature head-type mustards pior to harvest for leaf mustard pickle fermentation.

China in the third century b.c., a portion of the coolies' rations consisted of a fermented mixture of vegetables, probably mustards, radishes, turnips, cabbages, cucumbers, beets, and other vegetables (1). When salt is introduced and mixed with leaf mustards, it has been observed that the withdrawn brine becomes cloudy and the product acquires an acidic and pleasant flavor and aroma. The unique characteristics of the salt-preserved vegetables have been inherited for generations.

Figure 2 Leaf mustard pickles: (A) whole pickle; (B) inner head of leaf mustard pickle.
Figure 4 Mei-kan-choy made by dehydration of the outer leaves of leaf mustard pickles.

When the fermented leaf mustards are further sun-dried in order to reduce weight and volume, the dehydrated products are stable and convenient for storage and carrying during traveling. During storage of the dehydrated products for a prolonged period, additional unique flavor and aroma have been generated. Fu-choy (Fig. 3) and mei-kan-choy (Fig. 4) are two typical products of this type.

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