Mustard plants correspond to various plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis and are known to reach maturity very fast. These plants are very beneficial, as almost every part of the plant is useful.
The leaves (mustard greens) and tender stems can be boiled and consumed as vegetables, while the tiny mustard seeds can be used as spice. Their flowers are edible too.
White mustard is predominently used for its seeds, the plant produces yellow flowers, which conduce to hairy seed pods formation. Each of these pods contain about half a dozen seeds. These seeds are harvested just before the pods become ripe and burst. White mustard seeds are small hard round seeds (1-1.5 mm), with their colour ranging from beige to yellow to light brown. Brown Mustard is very commonly grown for green manure, these plants are
cut down from their base when they have sufficiently grown and left to wither on their own. This causes them to act as a mulch till the next crop’s sowing season. Moreover, in hazardous waste sites, this plant is used to discard heavy metals from the soil. This plant has a high tolerance level for these substances and stores the heavy metal in their cells. The plants are then harvested and disposed of appropriately.
Black Mustard plant is an annual, cultivated plant which can grow to a height of up to two metres, its thin stems bear loosely grouped, erect, bright sulphur-yellow flowers. Each flower has four petals arranged in the form of across, hence the alternative family name, Cruciferae. From the flowers grow elongated pods containing four to ten dark-brown mustard seeds. The stalked leaves are elongated and entire at the top of the plant and pinnate lower down on the stem, and closely resemble those of its relative rocket (arugula). Moreover, the leaves of this plant are covered in small hairs. The seeds of this plant are hard and vary in colour from dark brown to very black.
White, brown and black are the basic types of mustard plant cultivated across
White Mustard (Sinapis alba); White mustard or Sinapis alba is an annual plant
that is grown for its mustard seeds, as green manure or as fodder crop. This
crop is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, however,
today it grows wild in the Middle East, Mediterranean Europe and North Africa
and has also spread across the globe by long cultivation.
Brown mustard (Brassica juncea); Brown mustard or Brassica juncea, one of
the mustard plant species is also known as Indian mustard, leaf mustard and
mustard greens. It originated from the foothills of the Himalayas and is grown
commercially today in Canada, UK, US and Denmark. The sub-varieties of this
species include Southern Giant Curled Mustard, which bears resemblance to a
headless cabbage like kale, but with a horseradish-mustard flavour.
Black mustard (Brassica nigra); The black mustard plant is believed to be
native to the southern Mediterranean region of Europe and has been
cultivated for thousands of years. This plant is grown in Chile, US, Argentina
and some European countries, Canada being the country producing 90% of the
mustard seeds for the international market. Brassica nigra is cultivated as a
vegetable in Ethiopia and its leaves and stems are cooked and consumed.
Depending on variety, but can also be found growing wild; as there are two
types of varieties of black mustard. One is found throughout Southern Europe
and North Africa, the other in the Near East and Western Asia.
Aroma and Flavour
White Mustard (Sinapis alba) is used in condiment mustard and has a dull
smell but a pungent taste of flavour from sweet to mild depending on the
region it has been grown..no aroma really!.
Brown Mustard (Brassica juncea) is more pungent, not really aromatic.
Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) has no aroma, however, are quite flavourful;
pungent and kind of peppery and commonly used in Indian cuisine.
Health Benefits of Mustard
Mustard greens are loaded with nutrients. They provide a rich combination of
vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and protein.
Mustard is very rich in calcium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid
and they come in different colors like white, yellow, brown or black. All these
types have the same properties and vary only in their degrees of strengths;
white or yellow being the strongest, black next and then brown.
These nutrients team up to scavenge the free radicals, that otherwise cause
damage to the cell membranes. Vitamin E and beta-carotene exert protective
actions against the harmful free radicals in the lipid soluble regions of the
body, while vitamin C balances it out in the water soluble regions of the body.
Together they offer great benefits to people suffering from asthma, heart
diseases, menopausal symptoms, chronic cough and chronic rheumatic pain
Mustard seeds contain an enzyme, myrosinase, that becomes active as soon
as they are crushed. This enzyme breaks down the sugar compound
(glycoside) sinigrin also present in mustard, into the volatile, irritant allyl
mustard oil, along with glucose and potassium bisulphate.
Their volatile mustard oil content, (ground mustard seeds and
mustard flour), which is left behind when the seeds are processed to obtain the
fatty mustard oil, are traditionally used as rubefacients to improve the blood
supply to the skin.
Both the seeds and the flour can be made into a paste with water and applied
as a compress to the area of skin requiring treatment. Mustard flour can also
be used to prepare footbaths which warm the whole body and clear the head in
cases of colds or headaches
Brown Mustard can hyperaccumulate cadmium and many other soil trace
elements. Specially cultured, it can be used as a selenium, chromium, iron and
zinc food supplement.
Internally, mustard seeds and condiment mustard have a beneficial effect on
diverse gastrointestinal conditions. They stimulate the appetite, make fatty
foods easier to digest and aid bowel movement.
When mustard seeds are boiled with henna leaves, mustard oil produces a hair
oil beloved of Indian girls and women for scalp massage and believed to
improve hair growth.
Mustard was thought to invigorate the spirit and drive away melancholy.
In German, making uninvited comments is known as “adding one’s mustard”.
And to “sugar the mustard” is to sweeten unpalatable truths.
Buying and storing
Bought fresh from vegetable markets. They are also available in the canned
and frozen form. While choosing the fresh variety, look for those with crisp
young leaves and a rich green colour; they are available throughout the year.
These greens feature either a crumpled or flat surface, with the edges toothed,
lacey, scalloped or frilled. These lovely greens can be simmered, sauteed or
steamed and eaten. You will also be able to purchase all varieties of seeds.
White Mustard the seeds can be toasted to use in dishes or even used whole
for pickling. They are even ground and mixed with other ingredients to form
Brown Mustard the leaves, the seeds, and the stem of this mustard variety are
edible. Stored in the same way as white mustard seeds and the fresh greens
(leaves and stems) are kept refrigerated and consumed with 5 days of
purchase or they spoil. Mustard oil is made from this plant and used in a
variety of baking, foods and preserves.
Black Mustard these seeds contain a substantial amount of fatty oil, which is
extracted to produce a mustard cooking oil. The Leaves, stems are also cooked
and consumed, storage is the same as the white and brown mustard plants.
The mustard flowers of all varieties are edible and a great additive to salads; alongside young crisp
fresh mustard leaves.
Ideas with cooking with Mustard
The seeds are also used to prepare mustard condiments, mustard oil, etc.
As with other greens in soul food cooking, mustard greens are generally
flavoured by being cooked for a long period with ham hocks or other smoked
In Japanese cuisine it is known as Takana and is often pickled and used as
filling in onigiri or as a condiment.
The Japanese know mustard leaves as tempura, fried in beer batter with soy
Asian mustard greens are most often stir-fried or pickled; a Southeast Asian
dish called asam gai choy or kiam chai boey is often made with leftovers from
a large meal, it involves stewing mustard greens with tamarind, dried chillies
and leftover meat on the bone.
The brown mustard plant appears in some form in African, Italian, Indian,
Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and soul food cuisine. The leaves are used in
African cooking, and leaves, seeds, and stems are used in Indian cuisine.
In Indian cuisine mustard is mentioned as a spice and vegetable as early as 500
years BC in the Acaranga Sutra, the first Anga Agama (canonical text) of the
Indian Jain religious community.
In addition to ghee (clarified butter), Indians use pressed oil of mustard seed
for cooking and frying.
Romans liked using mustard in their food preparation and also spiced their
wine with mustard seeds.