What Is Mustard?

What is mustard? There are black mustard seeds and there are white mustard seed. Both have similarities and differences.

Scientific name: Brassica Nigra (Sinapis Nigra), Brassica Alba (Sinapis Alba)

Other names: Black Mustard (S.N), White Mustard (S.A)

Mustard belongs to the Cruciferae family. Its natural habitat is Europe and Asia. Both types of mustards are now naturalized in America. They grow wild in fields and are cultivated for their seeds. Mustard is an annual plant that grows erect. White Mustard looks similar to Black Mustard plants but is smaller. White Mustard pods are more or less horizontal and hairy, while Black Mustard pods are erect and smooth. The word cruciferae means cross bearers and this is used to describe the way the petals on the flowers look like. There are four petals on each flower suggesting a cross.

Black mustard seeds are half the size of white mustard seeds; both mature in summer. White mustard seeds are not white in color but are light creamy brown. Both types of seeds do not have a noticeable smell even when ground. They contain an enzyme called myrosin, potassium salt, glucose and essential oil. Black mustard seed contain sinigrin (a glucoside), while its white counterpart contain sinalbin.



Ground black mustard seeds and vinegar is a popular condiment that accompanies meat dishes and sandwiches. Black mustard seeds are used to make seafood curry dishes, pickles and sauces. White mustard seeds are used to make sauces too. The leaves of both types of mustards are used in salads and stir fried dishes. Mustard greens are a sold everywhere in the United States.

Medicinal uses: Ancient Greeks used mustard to treat digestive disorders and to stimulate salivation and to induce vomiting. White mustard tea can be gargled to soothe sore throats.

Externally, mustard powders are made into plasters or poultices to treat inflammation. Black mustard seeds are believed to be more potent for this than the white variety.

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