Mustard is the seed of an erect, multi-branched herbaceous plant. During the Middle Ages mustard was introduced into Spain by Arab traders, and it was soon carried throughout Europe.
Native range Southern Europe, Western Asia (black and yellow mustard); India (brown mustard)
Major producers India, Europe, North America
Harvesting Mustard is harvested by cutting the stalks when the seeds are fully developed but not quite ripe, to avoid the seed pods bursting and spilling their contents. The stalks are dried, then threshed.
Taste and aroma Whole mustard seeds have little or no aroma. The hot taste which gives mustard its ‘bite’ is released only when the seeds are crushed or ground and mixed with water. This activates an enzyme present in the seeds, and it reacts with other natural constituents to produce the essential oil which gives the characteristic taste.
Culinary uses Mustard is an indispensable ingredient in cooking. Yellow mustard seeds are used primarily as a pickling and preserving spice, and in marinades. Black and brown mustard seeds are used in India in curry powders and in spiced ghee (baghar or tadka). Ground yellow mustard powder is used in salad dressing and mayonnaise, where it helps the emulsification of the egg yolk and oil.
Other uses Mustard is a stimulant and it is used to relieve respiratory complaints and rheumatism. Mustard also used to be given as a laxative and emetic.
Historical uses Mustard has featured in history and literature since early times. Pythagoras suggested a mustard paste as a treatment for scorpion stings. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recommended mustard for both internal and external use.
Storage All forms of mustard store well for many months provided they are kept scrupulously dry.