Mustard (Brassica alba)
Mustard plants come in three main varieties: white, brown and black. Mustard seeds, mustard powder, mustard sprouts and mustard as a condiment are commonly used in many cuisines.
Mustard’s hot flavour is released once the seeds are crushed or mixed with water. White seeds have an initial sweetness and a milder flavour, brown seeds have an initial bitterness followed by a sharp biting flavour and black seeds are also sharp and pungent. When mustard seeds are fried, their taste turns from fiery to nutty.
Mustard seeds have little or no smell.
Mustard seeds, powder, spouts and condiments are used Indian, Asian and European (French in particular) cuisines. Mustard pairs perfectly with mayonnaise, boiled eggs, cheese, cabbage, cauliflower, lentils, onion, artichokes, tarragon, basil, tomato, honey, champagne, turmeric, beef, ham and sausages.
Mustard plants can be started by seed all year round, except in areas of extreme cold winters. The plants are fast growing, growing to 1-3m, with bright yellow flowers that form the shape of a cross. The flowers form seed pods which shatter easily, so ensure you pick the pods before they are completely dry.
To make mustard sprouts, put about 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds in a muslin-covered glass jar. Rinse and drain the seeds once or twice a day until they sprout.
In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of the mustard seed and Pythagoras suggested mustard paste as a treatment for scorpion stings. During the Middle Ages, mustard was introduced into Spain by Arab traders before being carried throughout Europe.
Mustard is sometimes used in a poultice to soothe muscular aches and inflammation. It has been known to stimulate the kidneys and digestive system. A gargle of mustard seed in hot water can be helpful for sore throats and bronchitis.
Facts about Mustard
It is recommended that English mustard powder is mixed with water 10 minutes before is required to allow the clean pungent flavours to develop. The colder the water, the stronger the flavour.
When cooking mustard seeds, have a lid on your pan to avoid the seeds popping out of the pan.
When is it best to add mustard powder into my cooking?
Add mustard to sauces and stews are the end of cooking. Keep it at a low heat to help preserve its flavour.