Thursday, August 1, 2013



 (Brassica spp)


The world’s consumption of pungent and flavorful mustard tops 400 million pounds including whole seeds, powder or “flour” and the most popular, prepared paste.  Named during Roman times, it was the condiment not the plant that was originally called “museum ardens”, Latin for “burning must,” which was eventually combined to become mustard.  The Romans would add must, unfermented grape juice, to pounded mustard seeds which released its characteristic hot and pungent flavor.  Worldwide, people have been adding prepared mustard of sorts to their food since then.  However, mustard seeds are mentioned dating back about 5,000 years and may have been used even centuries before that.  Egyptians were the first to record it as a spice, ancient Greeks used it every day and Romans used it as a medicine as well as a condiment.  Originally, in Europe, mustard seed was used by the poor who could not afford black pepper, but by 800AD, the French were using it to enhance drab meals by pounding the seeds with honey and new wine.  The modern era began in England in 1720, when mustard was milled into a fine powder, which became one of the first products to be mass-marketed.  Americans have become by far the largest consumer of mustard seed with most imported from Canada.


Mustard seeds have a modestly spicy taste, but not as sharp as prepared mustards.  Left whole, the seeds are odorless, but crush them even slightly and the pungency can be quite intense.  The seeds are commonly used in pickling spices from vegetables and meats.  Ground mustard has little aroma or flavor until liquid is added.  It acts as an emulsifier in the preparation of mayonnaise and salad dressing and is also used to flavor barbeque sauces, deviled eggs, soups and stews.  Once the seeds are ground into powder you can combine almost anything to make prepared mustard by adding cold water and something acidic like vinegar.  Don’t be surprised if the mustard is not as brightly colored though, as commercially prepared mustard is yellow from the addition of turmeric. The sharp flavor compliments vegetables, meats, eggs and fish as a dressing, rub, marinate or dipping sauce. However, unlike other pungent spices, mustard’s flavor does not build or persist so should be added near the end of cooking.  Mustard is considered a digestive stimulant in small doses and is a very good source of selenium and omega-3 fatty acids as well as iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, protein, niacin and dietary fiber.


The mustard plant is a cruciferous vegetable related to cabbage and varieties include those grown for their leaves, not their seeds.  Three main varieties of mustards produce seeds.  Black mustard seed (Brassica nigra) is a small round hard seed from dark brown to black and is the most pungent.  It is also the most prolific seed producer, however it is difficult to mechanically harvest because it rapidly sheds it seeds once they are ripe.  Black mustard seeds are mild and nutty when heated in oil and are widely used as a food relish and as an ingredient in curry.  Brown mustard seed (Brassica integifolia or Brassica juncea) are similar in size to the black variety and vary in color from light to dark brown, but have only 70% of the pungency.  Brown mustard seed contains a large amount of oil and is the type used to make Dijon mustard.  Yellow or white mustard seeds (Brassica alba or Brassica hirta) are a beige or straw colored although the outer skin is removed before sale and are the mildest of the three varieties.  Yellow mustard contains more fiber and less oil and is commonly used to make English or American ballpark-style mustard.  Whole yellow mustard seed is also used in pickling spice, marinades and adds piquancy to Sauerkraut.



Mustard seeds can be used
as is or can be toasted
in dry skillet until they pop,
for a nutty taste,
then ground for mixtures


Try these recipes to celebrate National Mustard Day this Saturday!

4tsp yellow mustard seeds                        
1/2 c olive oil
1/2tsp prepared Dijon mustard                
1/8tsp minced garlic
2Tbs orange juice                                        
1tsp honey
pinch of salt

Place the mustard seeds in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown. Transfer them to a mortar and grind them coarsely. Combine with the remaining ingredients and serve over a salad of red onion, orange segments and spinach.

1Tbd whole coriander seed                       
6Tbs whole mustard seed                   
1Tbs white peppercorns                 
1/2tsp dried thyme                              
3/4c water                                        
2Tbs honey                                         
1/4c red wine vinegar

            Toast seeds in a dry skillet and then crush with peppercorns in a mortar.  Mix with thyme and water in top of stainless steel double boiler and let stand 3 hours.  Heat water in bottom to boiling, then simmer the upper pan on top after stirring in honey and vinegar for 10 mins. or until thick.  Refrigerate.


And God said, See I have given you every herb that

yields seed which is on the face of the earth. . . “

Genesis 1:29

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