The most famous condiment plant in the world, mustard has been growing everywhere since time immemorial.
It is thought that cave men ate mustard greens along with their mammoth. And it is quite logical to assume that the combination of mustard and meat has existed for thousands of years, and was no doubt originally used to mask the taste of putrefied meat.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Egyptians grew mustard and that, since antiquity, mustard seeds have been used as both medicine (poultice) and a seasoning, as have mustard leaves. The Romans also liked the condiment, which they made by mixing mustard seeds with grape must to temper the spice. They called it mustem ardens, or burning must, and they took it with them to Gaul. This is where the word "mustard" came from.
In France, it became a specialty of Burgundy in the 12th century. Pope John XXII, living in Avignon, loved mustard and so gave his nephew, a particularly vain person, the job of the Pope's Mustard Maker. In the 14th century, frustrated husbands would go to apothecaries to buy a paste made of mustard seeds, ginger, and mint to awaken the ardor of their wives. Louis XI never went anywhere without his pot of mustard.
In the 18th century, Maille, the King's mustard and vinegar maker, boasted an impressive list of mustards: mustard with garlic and lots of other types of seasoning, mustard à la maréchale or à la marquise, Greek-style mustard and mustard with mushrooms, or even truffles.
At the time, Dijon mustard was available to buy in pellets, which could be delivered anywhere and reconstituted with vinegar, while Angers mustard was sold in liquid form and delivered in barrels.
The best mustards are made using the old tradition of grinding the seeds on millstones.
Mustards are primarily chosen according to their intended use.
All mustards have a best before date.
Mustard can be bought in a bucket, can, jar, pot, or tube.
Dry mustard seeds are sold by weight.
Traditional methods are often involved in the production of mustard sprouts, which were actually withdrawn from the market in France in 2011 following instances of poisoning.
Some markets sell mustard greens grown by small producers.
An oil is extracted from the seeds. Mustard essential oil must be used with extreme caution because it can burn the skin.
After opening, the bucket or jar of mustard should be kept in a refrigerator or cold room. It should always be covered because it dries out easily.
Mustard greens are rich in vitamins and minerals of all kinds (especially vitamin C).
There are lots of minerals in the condiment mustard, but this is not really worth taking into account as it is always used in such small quantities.
Mustard aids digestion: this is perhaps why it is often used as a condiment with fatty foods. However, it can irritate sensitive stomachs.
Mustard can also cause allergies. It is prudent not to give mustard to children under the age of three.
Several varieties of mustard exist. They all have tiny seeds, but some are spicier than others.
- White mustard (Brassica alba):
This mustard grows wild everywhere. It is mainly cultivated in the U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. It has extremely hot and spicy seeds.
- Chinese/Indian mustard (Brassica juncea):
It is native to Central and East Asia, where it grows wildly. It is grown in China, Japan, India, Europe (in France, it is grown in the Gâtinais and Sologne regions) and in North America (especially Canada). The spicy flavor of the seeds has a hint of bitterness.
- Black mustard (Brassica nigra) or wild mustard:
Native to the Mediterranean region, it grows wild in that entire area, and also in Western Asia and Europe. It is cultivated in many countries. Its seeds also have a strong flavor.
The type of mustard produced depends on the seeds or the mixture of seeds. The seeds become spicy when they come into contact with liquid.