Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Herb of the Week - Mustard Seed

It is that time of year when one can start seed here int he Illinois area so I am going to dedicate a few weeks to Herbs that you can grow from seed that you probably already have in your kitchen already -- in the spice cabinet.  This week it is Mustard and next week I will do anise.

Now those who frequent the blog know that I love mustard, making mustard and using mustad, but i also like growing mustard. so here is a rundown for this week's

                           Herb of the Week -  Mustard (Brassica spp.)

courtesy of Peggy Trowbridge Flippone

Mustard is a member of the brassica clan, which makes it a kissing cousin to cabbage, broccoli and radishes. Three main species are used for cooking. White- or yellow-seeded Sinapis alba, formerly known as Brassica hirta, is believed to be native to the Meditteranean region. Brown-seeded B. juncea probably originated in northwest India, and black-seeded B. nigra is native to the Middle East and Asia Minor. All three have naturalized throughout most of North America.

Food historians think mustard was first cultivated in India around 3000 B.C., and ancient Romans brought the seeds to Gaul. The plant was highly valued in Biblical times: Matthew 13:31 compares a grain of mustard to the kingdom of heaven.

The early Romans allegedly were among the first to prepare the spicy paste by mixing crushed seeds with the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes, known as “must.” (“Mustard” comes from the Latin mustum ardens, which means “burning wine.”) Although mustard probably first was used primarily for medicinal purposes, cooks throughout France, England, China and later the United States soon discovered the value and versatility of mustard.

Growing Mustard

Mustard foliage is rough and crumpled-looking, but attractive. The plant will produce four-petaled yellow flowers and, when not crowded, grow up to 2 feet.  Fill a shallow container three-quarters full with moist potting soil. Scatter a tablespoonful of seeds evenly on the soil's surface and cover with a light dusting of soil. Slip a plastic bag over the container and put it in a warm, sunny window. The seeds germinate rapidly. Remove the bag when the seedlings are 4 inches high.

You can keep the container of seedlings as an attractive plant or, if you want to grow a plant to maturity, remove one seedling from the container and transplant it to a 4-inch pot filled with potting soil. Take care to gently loosen the soil underneath the seedling with a pencil and lift the plant out by the leaves. (A plant can always regenerate new leaves but not a stem) Use a pencil to make a hole deep enough to receive the roots, and cover about an inch of the stem with soil. Water well and place the pot in a sunny window. If your light is good, the plant will produce flowers. 

Mustard does require bright sun.  Remember Mustard is an annual so sowing a new crop outdoors once the soil has warmed with give you more in the summer. You simply plant the seeds of this annual about 3 inches apart in a sunny garden site in either early spring or late summer. Like other brassicas, mustard thrives in cool weather. The tender young leaves will be ready to pick just a few weeks after the seeds sprout.

Take care before you plant mustard in your garden, however, as this easy-to-grow plant has become a troublesome weed in many states, due to the proliferation of its seeds. Before you grow mustard for seed, check with your County Extension agent to find out if mustard is restricted in your state.

To harvest the seeds, allow some of the plants to mature and flower. Seed pods will follow, about three months after planting. Harvest the pods when the plants begin to yellow, but before the pods break open and spill the seeds onto the ground. Store the seeds in a dry location until you are ready to use them, either whole or ground.

Mustard Extra

Next time you find yourself in Middleton, Wisconsin (near Madison), be sure to stop by the town’s brightest attraction, the National Mustard Museum. Open to the public since 1992, the museum displays 4,782 (at last count) jars of mustard, including historic tins and bottles that date to the 19th century.

“The idea came to me in 1986, after my Boston Red Sox lost the World Series,” museum curator and CMO (Chief Mustard Officer) Barry Levenson says. “I found myself walking the aisles of an all-night grocery store. “When I got to the mustard aisle, I heard a voice saying, ‘if you collect us, they will come.’” Levenson swears it’s true.

Next time you are playing trvial pursuit remember these mustard facts: One pound of mustard contains about 250,000 seeds. Most of the mustard seeds used in Dijon, France, are grown in the United States and Canada. Canada produces about 90 percent of the world’s supply of mustard seeds.

To Use Mustard
Mustard’s use extends beyond that of a mere spread for bread, however. Indeed, the plant’s seeds, leaves and roots have been used as food, fertilizer, seasoning and medicine for millennia. Every part of the plant can be and has been used throughout history.

For centuries, people have eaten young mustard greens in salads. Loaded with vitamin A, mustard greens also are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin C. Most varieties grown for greens are of the spicy, brown-seeded type, B. juncea. Cooks subdue the bitter and pungent mature leaves by sautéing, stir-frying, braising, boiling and stewing them, the way you would prepare kale or turnip greens. Since antiquity, mustard seeds have been used to cure ailments, as well as to preserve perishables. Mustard poultices are still used as a household remedy for bronchitis and muscular aches.

Cut the leaves when the plant is 3 inches high and use as a garnish for steaks, salads and soups. The larger, older leaves can be cooked like spinach, but you will find that mustard greens have a more bitter taste. Grind the seed to make mustard powder, and use the whole seed as a pickling spice.


Tarragon Mustard
Makes about 3/4 cup

This sophisticated mustard is very simple to make.

• 1/4 cup black mustard seeds
• 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
• 1/4 cup dry powdered mustard
• 3/4 cup cold water
• 114 cup dry white wine
• 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
• 118 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix mustard seeds, powdered mustard, and water in the upper pan of a noncorrodible double boiler. Let stand at least three hours. In another noncorrodible saucepan, mix the wine, vinegar, tarragon, and allspice and bring to a boil. Strain the liquid into the mustard mixture and blend well.  In the lower pan of the double boiler, heat water to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer. Place the upper pan, containing the mustard mixture, on top. Cook, stirring, until the mustard is as thick as you like. It will thicken a bit more as it cools. Cover and refrigerate.

Whole Grain Mustard 
Makes about 1 cup

This flavorful, all-purpose standard adds texture and tang to salad dressings and sandwiches.

• 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
• 6 tablespoons whole mustard seeds (a mixture of black and yellow)
• 1 tablespoon green peppercorns
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 3/4 cup water
• 2 teaspoons honey
• 114 cup red wine vinegar

Toast coriander seeds in a dry skillet or place them in a flat dish and microwave on High for 4 to 5 minutes. Crush mustard seeds, green peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a mortar. Mix the crushed seeds, thyme, and water in the upper pan of a glass, enamel or stainless steel double boiler and let stand at least three hours.  Heat water to boiling in the lower pan of the double boiler. Reduce the heat to simmering and place the upper pan, containing the Im1Stard mixture, on top. Stir in the honey and vinegar and cook 10 minutes until the mustard is as thick as you like. It will thicken a bit more as it cools. Refrigerate, covered.

  Check out our other blogs on mustard for recipes using mustard and crafting flavored mustard!


  1. I already used this mustard for my fruit salad ( fresh fruit salad) and it taste good. Today, I am gathering more info for herbal blend so that I know how would be the possible outcomes if I will mixed them all.


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