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Mustard -- Mustard Seeds



Wild Mustard (Brassica campestris)

The mustards are several species in the genus Brassica whose proverbially tiny mustard seeds are used as a spice and, by grinding and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, are turned into a condiment also known as mustard. The seeds are also pressed to make mustard oil, and the leaves can be eaten as mustard greens.

Mustard plants

Mild white mustard (Brassica hirta) grows wild in North Africa, the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe and has spread farther by long cultivation; brown or Indian mustard (B. juncea), originally from the foothills of the Himalaya, is grown commercially in the U.K., Canada and the U.S.; black mustard (B. nigra) in Argentina, Chile, the U.S. and some European countries. Canada grows 90% of all the mustard seed for the international market.

In addition to the mustards, the genus Brassica also includes cabbages, cauliflower, rapeseed and turnips.

Mustard seeds

The powerful "bite" of mustard seeds, which likely evolved as a deterrent to seed-eating rodents and birds, made mustard one of the first spices known to man. Mustard seed is found in Egyptian tombs. Mustard seed was already proverbially small in the Upanishads (Chandogya 3.14.2-3) and was so common in India that when a woman whose child had died came to the Buddha and asked that he return the child to life, the Buddha asked her to go out into the community and bring back to him a single mustard seed taken from a house where no person had died. Jesus's parable of the mustard seed was reported by Matthew (13:31-32), Mark (4:30-32) and Luke (13:18-19).

The pungent taste of mustard seeds results from an oil that is not actually present in the seeds. When mixed with water (or chewed), a chemical reaction occurs between an enzyme and a glucoside from the seeds, resulting in the production of the oil allyl isothiocyanate.

Prepared mustard

Prepared mustard is a thick condiment, a yellow or yellow-brown paste with a sharp taste that is prepared from the ground mustard seeds, by mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, and adding ingredients such as flour. A strong mustard can cause the eyes to water, burn the palate and inflame the nasal passages. For this reason, mustard is an acquired taste.

The Romans most likely developed the prepared mustards we know today. They mixed unfermented grape juice, known as "must" with ground seeds (called sinapis) to form mustum ardens, or "burning must".

There are many varieties of mustard, which vary in strength and flavour. Places known for their mustard include Dijon (strong) and Meaux in France, and Norwich in the United Kingdom. There are variations in the subsidiary spices and in the preparation of the mustard seeds. The husks may be ground with the seeds, or winnowed away after the initial crushing; "whole-grain mustard" retains some unground mustard seeds. Sometimes prepared mustard is simmered to moderate its bite, sometimes it is aged.

"Dijon" mustard is not covered by a Designation of Origin (PDO) or a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) ( under the auspices of the European Union. Dijon mustard is simply a method of preparing ground mustard seeds, using Brown mustard. Nor does "Dijon mustard" have an origin in medieval monasteries: In 1856, Jean Naigeon of Dijon substituted verjuice, the acidic "green" juice of not-quite-ripe grapes, for the older vinegar. Mustards are often prepared with some subsidiary spices like cloves, but in the past adulterants were so commonplace that in 1658 French law proscribed all mustard-making for sale except from certified makers.

Mustard is most often used as a condiment on meat, especially cold meats such as ham; the French like strong Dijon mustard with steak. It is also used as an ingredient in mayonnaise and vinaigrette, in marinades and barbecue sauce.

Popular brands of mustard are Plochman's (since 1852) and French's (Robert Timothy French, 1880) in the United States; Amora and Maille (since 1747) in France; and Colman's (Jeremiah Colman, 1804) in the U.K.

Mustard was not popular in American cooking until mild "mustard sauce" using white (actually yellow) mustard seeds, with some additional turmeric for bright yellow coloring, was made commercially available. "Honey Dijon" appeals in the U.S. to a national taste for sweetness in unexpected sources. In the U.S., very mild prepared mustard is often used as a condiment in combination with ketchup.

Mustard greens

Mustard greens, the leaves of the mustard plant, are one of the greens considered to be an essential element in soul food. They are more pungent than the closely-related Brassica oleracea greens (kale, cabbage, collard greens, et cetera) and are very frequently mixed with these milder greens in a dish of "mixed greens", which can also often include wild greens such as dandelion. As with other greens in soul food cooking, they are generally flavored by being cooked for a long period with ham hocks or other smoked pork products. Mustard greens are extremely high in Vitamin A and Vitamin K

See also

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