Mustard: Much More Than A Famous Spice And Attractive Yellow Flowers

Mustard isn’t a single species. The name is used to describe several species from the genera Brassica and Sinapis from the mustard family of plants, Brassicaceae. The same word is also used for the yellow condiment, used globally, made by crushing the plant’s aromatic seeds.

What is the mustard plant, how to grow it, and what uses it has? Let’s learn all about the plant before you grow it in your garden.

It is an annual herbaceous plant that we grow primarily for its seeds. Other than the mellow, slightly bitter seeds used as a spice, this plant offers plenty for gardeners.

Besides preparing the famous table mustard and dry mustard by crushing the seeds, you can also use the seeds to prepare mustard oil. The leaves and stems, called mustard greens, make excellent fresh herbs and the beautiful yellow flowers that show up in summers create a spectacular scene you don't want to miss!

There’s still a lot more to learn about this gorgeous plant! Continue reading, and you’ll find out all you need to know about this plant.

Common NameMustard
Botanical NameBrassica Juncea, Brassica Nigra, Sinappis Alba
Plant TypeAnnual Herb And Oilseed Plant
Size (Fully Grown)From 5 To 8 Feet (About 1,5 To 2,5 Meters) Tall
Sun ExposurePartial To Full Sun
Soil TypeGrows Best In Well-draining And Fertile Loamy Soils
Soil pHFrom 5.5 To 7.0
Flower ColorYellow
U.S. Hardiness Zones4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, And 11
Native AreaSinapis Alba – The Mediterranean, Brassica Juncea – The Himalayas.

How Many Mustard Varieties Are There?

As already highlighted, mustard is a set of species from the Brassicaceae family. Several species, including Sinapis alba, Brassica juncea, Brassica nigra, B. Rapa, B. hirta, are mustards. Among these specific species, there are several different cultivars to choose from.

Home gardeners usually go for the varieties that are preferred for their leaves. Here are some of the famous varieties for home gardens:

  1. Amara
  2. Kodiak
  3. Wasabi
  4. Mizuna
  5. Red Tatsoi
  6. Green Wave
  7. Tendergreen
  8. Purple Wave
  9. Osaka Purple
  10. Rosette Tatsoi
  11. Tokyo Bekana
  12. Florida Broadleaf

What Is The Story Of The Mustard Seed?

Mustard seeds have been used in the kitchen since prehistoric times. Archeological excavations have found these seeds from stone age settlements. Historians believe the first species to be harvested was the black mustard.

These seeds were found from the Bronze Age settlements in Switzerland. Records of the seeds have also been found in Northwest China, dating back 4000 to 5000 BC. Even the Bible mentions mustard seeds!

Seeds found in pyramids suggest that ancient Egyptians also treasured them. The tradition of grinding mustard seeds into paste began somewhere during the Sumer period of Mesopotamia.

The Sumerians mixed crushed mustard seeds into a highly acidic juice of unripe grapes. An entire urban development came into existence in the region for cultivating mustard.

Romans were also fond of the condiment. The mustard paste that they prepared with vinegar, grape juice, and honey is quite like the one we use today. From the Romans, mustard was introduced to France and England. The plant came to the Americas through the Spanish.

Canada and Nepal currently lead the world’s mustard seeds production, accounting for 28% and 26% of the world’s supply. Canada is also the world’s largest exporter of mustard seeds, accounting for 57% of the world’s market. Most of the seeds in Canada are grown in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

What Does The Mustard Plant Look Like?

Mustards are annual herbaceous plants from the Brassicaceae family that have long branched stems and yellow flowers. The plants can reach a height of 5 to 6.5 feet (about 1,67 to 2 meters).

The seedlings grow quickly into a dense cluster of yellow flowers, typical of the mustard fields you find growing prolifically in wide-open spaces.

Stems And Branches

Mustard plants grow thin with long stems that extend 3,3 to 6,6 feet (about 1 to 2 meters) and are heavily branched, though the variety “B. nigra” is sparsely branched.

Leaves

The pale green to light green leaves are usually alternately (sometimes oppositely) arranged on stems. The leaves are toothed, lobed, and sometimes arranged in basal rosettes, and best of all, these leaves are edible!

Several varieties, particularly cultivars of Brassica juncea, are grown as mustard greens. You can saute them or include them in your salads and meat dishes and served just like other leafy greens.

Flowers

The characteristic yellow flowers of this plant are popular because of their vivid showy display. The pale yellow flowers comprise four petals and grow 2 to 12 flowers on a single branch. The small individual flowers are only about 0.3 inches (about 0,8 cm) in diameter.

Seeds

As the flowers fade, seedpods appear on the branches. Each flower produces a fruit capsule carrying seeds that vary in number and color depending on the species. Brassica nigra (black mustard) produces black seeds, while Brassica juncea (brown mustard) produces larger, brown seeds, up to 20 in each pod. Seeds of white mustard (Sinapis alba) are pale yellow and contain up to 8 seeds in each pod.

We use the seeds as spices because of their characteristic pungent flavor it adds to dishes. Besides using it as a spice, they are also ground to prepare the famous table mustard and mustard powder. It’s also used to extract mustard oil.

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In What Conditions Does Mustard Grow Best In?

Mustard plants are easy to grow and quickly develop from the seedling stage to the stunning display of yellow flowers in your garden. It’s pretty simple to create your mini mustard field in your backyard for a fresh supply of greens and flavorful spices.

Temperature

Mustard is a cool-season crop. The seeds are sown in autumn so they can come to harvest before the temperatures rise above 75°F (about 24°C). But, make sure that the soil temperatures are well above 40°F (about 4,4°C) at the time of planting; otherwise, the seeds will germinate slow. When grown in hot weather, the plant quickly flowers and goes to seed.

Soil And Sun

A full sun growing spot is best for mustard, but consider growing it in partial shade if it gets too hot during the afternoon. Choose well-draining and loose soil for growing the crop and amend it with plenty of organic matter before you plant the seeds. A pH level between 5.5 and 7.0 is ideal for most varieties.

Water And Fertilizer

The plant will grow well in evenly moist soil, so don’t let the ground dry out between waterings. 2 inches (about 5 cm) of water per week is enough to maintain a healthy crop.

Fertilization isn’t necessary, especially if you plant them in soil well-amended with compost. But, if your soil isn’t rich in nutrients, you can supplement it with a dose of balanced fertilizer once the seedlings are at least 3 inches (about 7,6 cm) tall.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Mustard?

Mustard is rich in nutrients, including calcium, copper, vitamins, fibers, and selenium. Whether you eat the greens, seeds, or paste, you’re in for lots of health benefits, as long as you consume it in safe amounts. Let’s see if there are any risks associated with mustard consumption.

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

Consuming mustard in amounts typically found in meals is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. But, eating the seeds in medicinal amounts may induce a miscarriage.

Children

Mustard seeds are also safe and healthy for children as long as consumed in small amounts. You can add greens to a child’s diet from 6 months of age. But, they’re stringy and may pose a choking hazard. Chop or puree-cooked greens make them easier to swallow.

People With Allergies

Mustard is a priority allergen, according to Health Canada. Symptoms include itching, hiving, trouble breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you notice any swelling on the face, lips, tongue, or throat, contact the doctor immediately.

People With Diabetes

Mustard greens can lower blood sugar levels. While it’s healthy in safe amounts, consuming them in large amounts may cause your blood sugar levels to drop lower than required. Consult a doctor before adding the greens as part of your regular diet.

Pets

Mustard plant species are toxic to horses. Symptoms can range from diarrhea, excessive salivation, abdominal pain, and weakness. They can also be severe reactions in some instances, resulting in a coma or death. If you see them ingesting this plant, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Featured image credit – RajendraM/Shutterstock.com

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