Mustard: The Greatest Among The Herbs

For thousands of years, people have utilized mustard plants for their strong flavor in sauces, as hot greens in side dishes and salads, as well as in Chinese and traditional folk medicine to treat a wide range of illnesses. Latin mustum ardens, or flaming must, is where the word mustard first appeared. The reason for the moniker “fire seed” is because the seeds’ pungent properties emerged as they were pounded with unfermented grape juice, or must. Ancient Sanskrit manuscripts from over 5,000 years ago describe mustard seeds, and the Bible declares mustard the best of all herbs. Both the mustard seed and the plant itself have been cultivated for their potent flavors and therapeutic capabilities, as well as for their stunning yellow blooms and hot seedling leaves. In the same family as Brussel sprouts, kale, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, horseradish, cress, and broccoli, mustard is a cruciferous vegetable with similar phytochemical qualities.

The classifications of mustard include food, medicine, spice, and condiment. North Africa, central Asia, and the Mediterranean are the native habitats of white mustard (Sinapis alba), commonly referred to as yellow mustard. Given that it is the least pungent, this mustard is frequently utilized in the creation of American prepared mustards. Asian-native brown mustard (Brassica juncea) is the seed used to make artisan mustards like Dijon. Canada is one of the top five producers and the largest exporter of mustard seed in the world. Over 80% of the domestic supply is produced in Saskatchewan, where you can also find the brown mustard seed used to make Dijon mustard.

What Can Mustard Seeds Treat

Chinese herbalists have used mustard seeds for generations to cure abscesses, pneumonia, colds, rheumatism, toothaches, ulcers, and stomach ailments because they have numerous medicinal characteristics. They are a good supply of phosphorus, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese and a great source of monounsaturated fats. It has been demonstrated that mustard seeds can help lessen the severity of asthma, lessen some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and help prevent cancer. Even now, people still use mustard plasters to treat rheumatism, arthritis, chest congestion, anaemia, and painful muscles. To prepare a mustard plaster, combine wheat flour and powered mustard in equal parts. Then, add just enough cold water to the mixture to make a soft paste. Spread out on a clean piece of fabric, such as multiple layers of muslin, linen, or cotton flannel. Keep in mind that mustard is a fiery herb and that skin contact with it may result in blisters. Keep running for around 15 minutes. Remove the plaster right away if the patient complains at any point during the course of treatment. Bathe the treated region in cool—not cold—water once the plaster has been removed to put an end to the burn. To calm the skin, dry the area completely and finish with a light dusting of baby powder or cornstarch.

Mustard Plant

The leaves of the mustard plant, Brassica juncea, are known as mustard greens. For more than 5,000 years, mustard greens have been farmed and eaten in the Himalayan area of India. All young mustard leaves can be used to make mustard greens, but the best mustards for greens are Chinese mustards, also known as broad-leaved mustard greens (Brassica juncea var. rugosa) or thin-leaved mustard greens (Brassica juncea var. foliosa). Gai choy, Indian mustard, leaf mustard, mustard cabbage, bamboo mustard cabbage, and sow cabbage are other names for these kinds. A common vegetable in many different civilizations all around the world is mustard greens. Similar to how dandelion, spinach, or beet greens are utilized (see recipe for Sauted Mustard Greens).

Beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are all abundant in mustard greens. They are a great source of phytochemicals thought to prevent cancer and contain vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, iron, niacin, and vitamin A. Mustard greens are used to relieve bladder inflammation and halt bleeding in Chinese herbal therapy. People who experience symptoms of menopause, asthma, heart disease, or any other condition may find considerable relief from eating mustard greens.

Annual mustard plants can reach heights of 2-4 feet (60-120 cm). The white mustard blossoms have a little vanilla aroma, and the blooms that are produced are yellow. They feature four-petaled blossoms with two long and two short petals that resemble a cross, which is why they are known as cruciferous plants. Both mustards feature large, dark green, jagged lower leaves that are unevenly cut and have a pungent flavor. As a cool-season crop, mustard quickly bolts in hot temperatures.

Early April is a good time to grow mustard seeds outdoors or indoors. Adequate lighting is crucial when starting mustards inside. Lights should be left on for 16 hours every day and hung 3 inches (7.5 cm) above the seedlings. Rich, moist, prepared soil with good drainage is what they prefer. Follow the instructions on the seed packet and bury seeds an inch (6 millimeters) deep. They need to be maintained moist during the growing season and do best in direct sunlight. Separate the mustards by 6 inches (15 cm). Your mustard plants should be harvested for the seed when the seedpods start to take on a brownish hue, for cooked greens when the leaves are grown, and for fresh greens when they are young and tender.

Cooking With Mustard

Whole mustard seeds are used in cooking to flavor meats including lamb, hog, and rabbit as well as sauerkraut, cabbage, pickles, relishes, curries, sauces, and pot roasts. Cook fresh flowers for two to three minutes in salted boiling water or use them as an edible garnish. Drain, then top with butter and salt of your choosing. You can sprout mustard seeds and use them as a garnish or in salads and sandwiches. Salads and stir-fries benefit greatly from the addition of young mustard greens. Crush, crack, or grind the mustard seeds to create your own homemade mustard condiment. The seeds should be macerated in wine, vinegar, or water. As this triggers the chemical process that releases the heat and pungency of the seed, be sure the liquid is cold.

Add herbs and spices like tarragon, horseradish, crushed hot peppers, turmeric, garlic, pepper, paprika, ginger, or hot pepper sauce to the mixture to make a smooth paste. Brown sugar, honey, dark beer, whiskey, wine, wine vinegar, Scotch, and lager are further alternatives. Lemon, lime, orange, or berries are commonly used in fruit mustard recipes. (If you don’t want to deal with grinding your own seed, start with mustard powder or use your favorite prepared mustard and add whatever additional ingredients you desire.) Vinaigrettes, marinades for meats, poultry, and seafood, mayonnaise, salad dressings, sauces, soups, and stews all employ prepared mustard. Turmeric is used to give prepared mustards their bright yellow color.