What Is Mustard? All Your Mustard Questions Answered

What is mustard?

The mustard tree or mustard plant is an easy-to-grow species that can be eaten in the form of sprouts, greens, and seeds. The plant’s attractive yellow flowers bloom from spring through to summer, and seeds can be found in as little as 60 days. Although over 40 varieties of the plant exist, mustard is categorized into two genera: Sanapis and Brassica. The three most common mustard plants used today include:

  • Brassica nigra: black mustard
  • Brassica juncea: brown mustard
  • Sinapis alba or Brassica alba: yellow or white mustard

Table of Contents

Why is it called mustard?

Prepared mustard or the mustard condiment is referred to by the same name because it is made from the seeds of a mustard plant. The name originates from the old French word “mostarde,” which itself is an amalgamation of the Latin words “mustum” (must or wine) and “ardens” (hot or burning).

Where did the mustard plant originate?

Used for flavor and medicinal purposes by the ancient Greeks and Romans, the plant is deemed to originate in ancient Egypt. Dijon France gave rise to the mustard condiment we know today, having first been used in 1336 to serve King Philip VI.

What is mustard good for?

In terms of its health benefits, mustard is believed to be good for lowering blood sugar, protecting against infections, and healing skin conditions such as dermatitis and psoriasis lesions. Although more research is required into the extent of mustard’s medicinal efficacy, we do know that mustard is rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Types of mustard

Mustard is commercially available in four different forms: as seeds, as a powder, as the prepared condiment, and as a plant. Although there are over forty different types, the three most common include white mustard, black mustard, and brown mustard.

White Mustard (Sinapis Alba or Brassica Alba)

Also known as yellow mustard, white mustard belongs to the Brassicaceae family. Said to originate in the Mediterranean, its seeds are a key ingredient in the popular yellow mustard condiment. The white mustard plant is primarily grown for its seeds and harvested just before its silicles burst.
White Mustard Plant Sinapis Alba

Black Mustard (Brassica Nigra)

Black mustard is an erect plant that grows up to 6 feet tall, producing edible flower heads and leaves. Vibrant yellow flowers grow in clusters and seed pods are closely pressed against its stem. Base leaves are broad and deeply dissected, narrowing as they move up the plant. The black mustard plant produces seeds that are dark brown, gray, or black in color and more pungent and spicy than the seeds of a white mustard plant.

Brown Mustard (Brassica juncea)

Also referred to as vegetable mustard, Indian mustard, and Chinese mustard, brown mustard grows best in partial shade to full sunlight. Leaves can be harvested in as little as 40 days and contain a peppery flavor that ranges from hot to mild. The primary ingredient in Dijon mustard, brown mustard seeds are reddish-brown when fully ripened and produce a spicy piquant taste.

Mustard Seeds

Used as a spice to enhance the flavor of food, whole mustard seeds can be incorporated into many home cooking recipes. A more common use for mustard seeds is as the foundational ingredient in crafting the delicious condiment we refer to as prepared mustard. In its early stages, a plant can be eaten as sprouts and greens, but allowed to mature, the flower will develop pods.

Where do mustard seeds come from?

Mustard seeds are extracted from dried-out seed pods known as silicles, which turn a light brown when the plant is ready for harvest. Because each mustard plant contains such a large volume of pods, a few steps are required to separate the seed from the chaff. The process requires a colander and tray and consists of rubbing, sifting, and picking out pods that have found a way through.
Where Do Mustard Seeds Come From

What does mustard seed taste like?

Mustard seeds can be sharp, spicy, bitter, and sweet, depending on the type of seed being sampled. For example, yellow mustard seed is sweet and mellow, while black and brown seed varieties are bitter and pack a little more heat. Also of note, you will feel the effect of brown and black mustard seeds in your nose, eyes, and tongue, whereas the heat from yellow mustard will only be felt on your tongue.

What do mustard seeds look like?

Resembling broccoli seeds, the seeds from mustard plants are tiny (0.04 to 0.08 inches in diameter), round-shaped, and either black, brown, or yellow in appearance. Their color is deep and rich, varying very slightly from one another in hue once harvested.
Brown Mustard Seed Brassica Juncea

What do mustard seeds grow into?

Mustard seeds will grow into their respective plant genus, which will most commonly be white, brown, or black mustard. Seeds will grow into edible sprouts, which change into a leafy green and develop fruit.

Will mustard seeds grow?

Store-bought mustard seeds will grow using both the wet paper towel method and when planted in soil. Sprouting will take a couple of days and microgreens will usually form in about a week.

Mustard Sprouts

Grown all year round, mustard sprouts are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. When the microgreens reach a height of between 3 and 4 inches, they are ready to harvest.

Will mustard seeds grow?

Perfect for soups, salads, sandwiches, and as a garnish, mustard sprouts can be eaten raw and cooked to add a little spice to meals. Boasting a medium to strong mustard tang, mustard sprouts can be consumed in their entirety or cut and eaten from root up.

Are mustard sprouts good for you?

Mustard sprouts are packed full of nutrients, including antioxidants and a range of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K are present, as well as Iron, Calcium, Zinc, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Magnesium. Containing over 30% protein, mustard sprouts are easier to digest than greens, allowing your body to extract nutrients more efficiently.

How do you grow mustard sprouts?

The easiest way to grow mustard sprouts from home is to plant them in an empty flat container. The container can be filled with dirt or lined at the bottom with a wet paper towel. Seeds are spread out evenly across the surface, making contact with the wet paper or covered with a layer of dirt if that’s the route you have chosen. Spray your seeds until they become thoroughly soaked, then cover the container to retain the moisture. Place the container away from bright light sources; a table or benchtop will suffice. A good practice is to check up on your sprouts each morning and evening as they may require a small spray up to twice a day.
How Do You Grow Mustard Sprouts

How long does mustard take to sprout?

Mustard sprouts are formed in the early stages of plant growth, taking only a week or two to form. Within this timeframe you can expect an ocean of green, depending, of course, on the amount of seeds that have been planted.

Mustard Greens

The leafy part of a mustard plant, mustard leaves or greens are a perfect vegetable to cook and eat raw. Best when harvested in their early stages, mustard greens contain a rich color and a crisp feel. Store-bought leaves usually last up to a week in the fridge and can be frozen for use at a later date.

What do mustard greens look like?

Varying broadly in appearance and texture, mustard greens are a perfect addition to salads, stir-fries, and soup dishes. Amara mustard greens, for example, look like a large mint leaf, while green wave mustard resembles kale. While most species are generally green, Osaka purple, red giant, red tatsoi, and purple wave all have a lovely purple tinge.
What Do Mustard Greens Look Like

What do mustard greens taste like?

Highly nutritious, mustard greens provide the spicy punch you have likely experienced from its aromatic seeds. Raw mustard leaves have a bitter flavor, producing a pepper-like bite that’s sharp but gentle. Cooked mustard greens can range in taste depending on the preparation method and the combination of ingredients used in the recipe.

How do you eat mustard greens?

Mustard greens are a versatile addition to any diet, eaten raw, cooked, and even pickled. Raw mustard greens can be combined with your favorite salad greens, adding a little extra punch to your fresh meal. Pickled mustard greens can be eaten as a side dish or included as part of a homemade stir fry. For a light and hearty meal, add mustard leaves to a pot of vegetable broth or chicken broth, or simply saute greens for a delicious side dish.

Prepared Mustard

Prepared mustard refers to mustard seeds that have been crushed, cracked, or mixed whole with additional ingredients such as white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, water, or beer. These condiments are then packaged and sold to consumers who can simply crack open a jar for dipping, topping, or inclusion into their favorite recipe. While there are many combinations and recipes (stone ground Dijon mustard, for example), the most popular types of prepared mustards include:

Yellow Mustard

Made from yellow mustard seeds, this mustard gets its vibrant color from the inclusion of turmeric. The volume of turmeric will dictate how bright the final product is; the more turmeric, the brighter the mustard. In terms of fragrance, yellow mustard casts a combination of sweet, acidic, and spicy notes, with each brand or blend giving off its own unique scent. When it comes to your palette, you should be able to distinctly identify the sweetness, sourness, and even a tinge of turmeric.

Dijon Mustard

Viewed as a high-end mustard, this delectable blend was created in 1856 in Dijon, France. Ranging from golden to dark brown in appearance, Dijon mustard is made using water, mustard seeds, salt, and either wine or vinegar. Smooth and spicy on the palette, the highly versatile mustard is perfect for a variety of meals ranging from ham sandwiches to pasta dishes. Unlike Champagne, Dijon mustards do not need to be created in Dijon France to retain the Dijon label.

Whole Grain Mustard

One of the original varieties of mustard, the whole grain condiment can be summed up as basically pickled mustard seeds. Sweet, bitter, and acidic, a good quality whole grain mustard will emit a strong mustard aroma rather than becoming overpowered by acidity. Visually, this type of mustard looks like tiny balls suspended in liquid which provides a caviar-type pop whenever it’s eaten.

Spicy Brown Mustard

Spicy brown mustard is defined by its hull, which has been left intact rather than being completely pureed. Made using brown mustard seed, the sauce is ideal combined with various meat dishes. Popular varieties of this type of mustard include deli mustard and Creole mustard which is popular in Louisiana.
Spicy Brown Mustard

What does mustard taste like?

The flavor of mustard can be described as bitter, sweet, sour, tangy, hot, spicy, sharp, and strong. Each recipe will produce a different taste profile, providing versatility for cooking, topping, or when used as a dip.

Why is some mustard hot and spicy?

The four main reasons some mustards are hot and spicy while others are mild are the variety of seeds, ground size, soaking liquid, and complimentary ingredients. For example, soaking seeds in beer or water will craft a hot mustard, whereas using vinegar will lead to a more tepid or mildly spicy mustard.

What is the mildest mustard you can buy?

All else being equal, mustard made using yellow seeds will produce a milder flavor than those made using a black or brown seed base. How mild a particular line of mustard tastes depends on several factors, including its preparation and whether it contains additional ingredients such as chili. Two great choices for those interested in mild mustard are Grey Poupon Mild & Creamy, and Beaufor Mild Dijon Mustard.

Is turmeric mustard?

Turmeric is a commonly used spice found in a range of prepared mustards; it does not, however, come from a mustard plant. Instead, turmeric is harvested from the roots of a turmeric plant, which features a beautiful white flower with subtle pink highlights.

Does turmeric make mustard yellow?

Turmeric is the key ingredient that gives prepared mustard its vibrant yellow color. Mustard varieties without turmeric range from a dull yellow to brown, while mustards rich in the spice are a much brighter yellow.

What is yellow mustard made from?

While the ingredients found in prepared yellow mustard will vary depending on the brand, common ingredients include mustard seeds, water, white wine vinegar, turmeric, salt, paprika, and spices. Additional ingredients such as oil, garlic, and sugar are also used to refine the flavor further and differentiate one brand’s recipe from the others.

Why is American mustard so yellow?

When compared to alternative types of mustard, it’s the high ratio of turmeric powder that gives American mustard its vibrant yellow color. Commonly used as a natural food dye, the spice is added to create the popular condiment Americans love.

Mustard Powder

Mustard powder is made from finely ground mustard seeds and is a key ingredient in a range of popular dishes and condiments. While some commercial powders use a blend of seeds, mustard powder is most often available in the form of ground black mustard, ground white mustard, and ground brown mustard.
Mustard Powder

Is mustard powder the same as ground mustard?

Ground mustard, mustard powder, and mustard flour are all used to refer to dry mustard. This form of the popular condiment is created by crushing seeds from any number of plant varieties.

Is mustard powder good for you?

Because it’s packed with nutrients, mustard powder can generally be categorized as a healthy food. In most cases, mustard powder is a “healthier” option than prepared mustard because it contains no additional ingredients, additives, or preservatives.

Homemade Mustard

Can you make mustard at home?

Mustard is a great condiment to prepare at home, requiring only a handful of basic ingredients and a short preparation time. While the manual prep time is minimal, there is a soaking period that ranges from 4 hours to a full day. The advantage of preparing homemade mustard is the ability to refine your recipes over time and personalizing the flavor to suit your palate. You can craft traditional blends such as sweet mustard, stone ground mustard, and Dijon. If you’re feeling creative, you can introduce a variety of herbs and even berries into the mix.

How is mustard made?

Mustard is made by mixing the whole, cracked, or crushed seeds of a mustard plant with various liquids to create a paste or sauce. Wine, lemon juice, water, and vinegar (apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar) are common ingredients, while additions such as salt, egg, turmeric, paprika, and spices are also used.

Cooking With Mustard

Can mustard be used for cooking?

Yes, mustard is an integral ingredient used to make many recipes, being used as gravy, glaze, and vinaigrette. Honey mustard roast chicken, mustard meatloaf, and maple and mustard glazed ham are just a few amazing dishes made using the popular condiment.

Can mustard be used for cooking?

Dijon and yellow mustard tend to be the most popular types used in cooking, with the best being specific to each dish. Honey mustards provide sweetness to roast chicken, creamy potato salad, and lamb sauce recipes, whereas a hot mustard is preferred when you need that extra kick.

What do you eat mustard with?

An extremely versatile condiment, mustard is most often eaten with hot dogs, ham sandwiches, soft pretzels, and smoked turkey. Mustard is also included when preparing a curry, mixing a potato salad dressing, or used when dipping cheese and crackers into a mustard sauce. If you’re looking to experiment, mustard is a great addition to ham hock, spinach, cooked greens, salmon, and bacon recipes.

Is mustard hotter than chili?

Chilli is much hotter than mustard in both its raw form and when prepared as a condiment. While different types of chili produce a different level of heat (measured on the Scoville scale), mustard works its way up from the mild nature of yellow or white mustard to the increasingly spicy black mustard seed. The preparation method also dictates how hot a mustard is; vinegar tends to induce a mild flavor, while beer produces a very hot taste.

Can mustard oil be used for cooking?

It has been reported that the high levels of erucic acid in expressed mustard oil can potentially lead to adverse side effects. According to Medical News Today, this oil should not be used as a dietary supplement or when cooking. The FDA has stated that cardiac lesions and nutritional deficiencies were detected in animals and has not permitted its use as a vegetable oil. Of particular interest, volatile mustard oil or essential oil of mustard is approved for use as a flavoring and is generally recognized as safe.

Brands of Mustard

What distinguishes the common types of mustard?

The three attributes that distinguish common types of prepared mustards include: which plant the seed comes from, the seed’s consistency, and the blend of ingredients. White mustard seeds have a mild flavor, while black seeds tend to be more aromatic and spicy. Seeds that have been crushed into powder will be smooth on the palette, while whole grains will be more textured.
Brands of Mustard

Is Grey Poupon prepared mustard?

Grey Poupon is a perfect example of a prepared mustard. Specializing in Dijon and old-style blends, Grey Poupon first appeared in 1777 and has since been acquired by Kraft Heinz.

What is the best prepared mustard?

While the preferred style and brand is an individual choice, the most popular prepared mustards include Maille, Grey Poupon, Heinz, and French’s. My personal favorite brand and blend of mustard is Thomy Prepared Mild Mustard, which I eat with roast chicken and lemon-based fish recipes.

What is the most expensive mustard?

The most expensive mustard we’ve come across to date is the Australian-made Stonebarn Black Truffle Mustard. Priced at approximately $35 USD for a 12oz jar, the mustard combines traditional Dijon mustard with black Perigord truffles.

Where do I buy mustard?

Mustard can be purchased in most grocery stores as well as online retailers such as Amazon. If you’re interested in specialty mustards, online retailers such as Gourmet Foodstore and Chef Shop stock a delicious range of gourmet blends. You can expect to pay anywhere between $3 and $29 a jar, while most range between $5 and $10.

Storing Mustard

Does Mustard Need To Be Refrigerated?

Unopened bottles and jars of mustard are perfectly fine in the pantry, however, mustard is best kept refrigerated once opened. Not only does refrigeration improve shelf life, but it will also ensure your condiment retains its optimal taste and texture. French’s mustard, for example, has a shelf life of between 18 and 24 months and does not require refrigeration to last until the best by date. On the other hand, Masterfoods recommend their honey mustard be refrigerated after opening.

How long can you keep mustard?

If stored according to instructions, most brands of mustard should retain their flavor up to and past the best by date. The best way to determine how long a particular mustard can be kept is to check the label for best by date or directly contact the manufacturer for guidance.

Does mustard go bad?

Because mustard is a combination of acidic liquids and spices, it will unlikely go bad in the same way a meat would. The best way to tell if it’s time to throw out an old jar is to observe its consistency and the ever-reliable sniff test. If the mustard has lost its natural pungency and smells unfamiliar or off, it’s time for a fresh jar. If there is separation between the whole ingredients and the liquid inside, it’s also a sign the mustard shouldn’t be eaten.

Common Questions

What can I use instead of mustard powder?

If you don’t have dry mustard powder on hand or simply want to replace the ingredient in a recipe, there are several great alternatives you can use. Mustard seeds are a great alternative, however, they may need to be crushed in a mortar and pestle before you include them. A prepared mustard is a perfect replacement, especially if your recipe calls for creating a paste. While Dijon is probably the most comparable, most varieties should work quite well. If you want to replace mustard altogether, turmeric, horseradish powder, wasabi powder, and mayonnaise are some popular options that will avoid a trip to the store.
Turmeric Powder

Can I use mustard powder instead of mustard?

Because a large variety of prepared mustard is mustard powder turned into paste, it’s a perfect alternative when your bottle is empty. While you may need to prepare a homemade-style mustard if your intention is dipping, the inclusion of mustard powder may suffice if used as part of a cooked dish.

What is the difference between yellow and black mustard seeds?

The most apparent difference between the two seeds is they come from different types of plants. Brassica nigra variant produces black mustard seeds, while yellow or white mustard seeds come from the Sinapis alba plant. In terms of appearance, yellow mustard seeds are yellow or white in appearance, whereas black mustard seeds are a very dark brown or black. Lastly, the taste they produce also differentiates the two, with the black seeds being much more intense and aromatic than the mild nature of the yellow seeds.

What's the difference between Dijon mustard and regular mustard?

The key differences between regular American mustard and Dijon mustard are the base seeds and complementary ingredients. Regular American mustard contains a higher turmeric ratio and uses a white or yellow mustard seed base, whereas Dijon mustard is crafted from a brown mustard seed.

What's the difference between honey mustard and Dijon mustard?

Honey mustard is blended for a smooth and sweet flavor, whereas Dijon mustard is crafted to be sharp and tangy. Honey mustard will not embody the same hot notes you will find in a Dijon, which ranges vastly in taste and texture. The sweetness of honey mustard makes it an ideal companion for dipping, whereas Dijon mustard is much better suited to sauces and salad dressings.

What is the difference between yellow mustard and prepared mustard?

Yellow mustard is a form of prepared mustard, in the same way Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, and spicy brown mustard are. Prepared mustard, simply put, is when a variety of mustard seeds have been pre-made into a paste or sauce. This holds true whether the mustard has been bottled for sale by commercial brands or made at home using your own seeds and ingredients.

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