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Greens in Mississippi

Greens are grown on over 2,000 acres in Mississippi. The use of the term "greens" for salad ingredients has led to the more frequent and more correct term "potherb" for these crops. Turnip, mustard, and collard greens are the major crops, but small amounts of kale and Swiss chard are also produced. Greens are almost exclusively a cool season crop commercially, but warm season greens such as malabar spinach and New Zealand spinach are produced in many home gardens.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Swiss chard?
Swiss chard is a beet developed for greens. It does not form the normal storage root we associate with beets. Swiss chard is a very attractive plant which comes is several shades of red and green and grows well in Mississippi's fall weather. It is not widely grown due to low market demand.

What's the difference between collards and kale?
Collards and kale are both derived from Brassica olearceae L. Collards have a round, smooth leaf while kale has a curly leaf. Kale's most frequent use in Mississippi is to decorate salad bars. Kale is more cold tolerant then collards and frequently can be grown through the entire winter without significant damage.

When can greens be planted?
Greens can be planted whenever the next seven to ten weeks will have temperatures between 28 and 80 degrees. For most of Mississippi this means greens can be planted from September to March. Collards can produce at temperature both above and below this range and have been successfully produce year round in North Mississippi. Greens should not be attempted in warm weather months without abundant irrigation available. Greens grown in hot weather tend to be of much lower quality than cool weather greens.

Why can't spinach be grown in Mississippi?
Spinach production has been attempted many times. Our unpredictable temperatures and high humidity often lead to crop failure due to bolting, or disease pressure.

What should the plant spacing be for greens?

  • Collards for sequential leaf harvest: 2,000 plants per acre (18 inches by 18 inches)
  • All other greens for once over harvest: With a plate seeder: one pound per acre
  • Broadcast seed: one to three pounds of seed per acre per acre

Why use the term potherb for greens?
Potherb means the leafy portion of a plant cooked. The restaurant trade has increasingly used the term greens for the mixtures of green leaves in the salad bowl. Mustard is frequently used as both a salad green and a potherb.

What about the new greens being developed?
There have been several new types of greens developed by the Japanese and Chinese called mustard-spinach or mustard-turnip. Variety names include Tendergreen, Alamo,, Savanna, and others. These greens grow well in Mississippi, often producing more tonnage than the standard varieties. However, they do have a distinctive taste and have to be marketed carefully.

Is irrigation necessary for greens production?
Rapidly growing mustard and turnip may require up to two inches per week of water. If the soil is sandy loam and the weather is warm, irrigation may prove the difference between having a crop or not. Greens which wilt are more prone to bolt and be unmarketable.

Can greens survive a freeze?
All of the cool season greens can survive a frost. Mustard is the most cold sensitive and can be injured at 28 degrees. Turnip is the next most sensitive, then Swiss chard, then collards, then kale. There is a seldom grown in Mississippi green called Hanover salad or Siberian kale which can survive 15 degree temperatures.

Why is Florida Broadleaf mustard so popular?
Taste and productivity are the reasons Florida Broadleaf is the most popular green, in Mississippi. The somewhat unique flavor causes most people to think other mustards are not the real thing.



MSUcares Commercial Horticulture publications


Other Greens Information

Control Garden Insects
Organic Vegetable IPM Guide
Soils for Vegetable Production
Mississippi Farmers' Markets