views updated Jun 08 2018


MUSTARD. Mustard is the world's third most important spice after salt and pepper, and in temperate regions it is the most important native spice. The term "mustard" is believed to be derived from the practice of mixing the sweet must of old wine with crushed mustard seed to form a paste, mustum ardeus (hot must), hence mustard. The condiment is made from seeds of annual plants of the family Cruciferae, so named for the flower's four yellow petals, which form a cross. The mustard family includes the cole vegetables, radishes, turnips, cress, and horseradish, as well as many important weedy species, such as wild mustard or charlock (Sinapis arvensis L.).

Black mustard (Brassica nigra [L.] Koch), although later considered a weed, was likely the first mustard species harvested as a spice as it grew in the wild or was cocultivated with cereal crops. Its use predates recorded history with seeds, ready for sowing, found in a Bronze Age lake dwelling at the Bielersee (Lake of Bienne) in Switzerland and in vessels in northwest China dating to 50004000 B.C. The spice was well known to the earliest Egyptian dynasties and was spread by spice traders and conquering armies throughout Europe and Asia. The Spaniards introduced mustard to the Americas, and in California, Father Junipero Serra scattered black mustard seeds along the routes from monastery to monastery to mark the way in 1768. The bright yellow spring blooms, which mark the old trail, can be seen from the main north-south highway.

The Mustard Species

Black mustard plants are tall (up to 3 meters) and sparsely branched, and they produce many short pods (sliques). As the pod matures, the highly pungent, small (1.5 grams per 1,000 seeds), round dark brown seeds are shed, necessitating frequent hand harvesting or cutting and stacking immature plants on the threshing floor.

The characteristic seed shedding and seed dormancy of black mustard made it unsuited to monoculture and mechanized agriculture, and the spice trade turned to the production of a closely related species, Brassica juncea (L.) Czern and Coss. Plants of B. juncea, when compared to black mustard, are shorter (1 to 2 meters) and have many upright, heavily podded branches with longer pods that retain their seeds when ripe. The seed is larger (3 grams per 1,000 seeds) but produces the same pungency. The seed color is either brown (brown mustard) or yellow (Oriental mustard).

The species originated from a natural cross between B. nigra and Brassica rapa L. (turnip rape) followed by chromosome doubling to produce a vigorous and productive interspecific hybrid. This interspecific cross is believed to have occurred more than once where the two species occupied the same region. Possible centers of origin are believed to be North Africa, northern India and Pakistan, and western China.

The third condiment mustard species, Sinapis alba L., is called yellow or white mustard and produces a different pungency from both B. nigra and B. juncea seeds. From its Mediterranean center of origin, it has been widely disseminated throughout the temperate regions where day lengths (hours of sunshine) were sufficient to stimulate flowering. When moistened, the ripe seed will exude a mucilage from its yellow seed coat to form a whitish coating when dry. This may explain why white mustard is the common name in Europe, while in North America it is called yellow mustard.

Plants of yellow mustard are shorter (0.6 meters) than either B. nigra or B. juncea and have deeply lobed leaves. The short, hairy pods, with flat beaks, contain and retain 5 to 6 seeds when ripe. The seed is significantly larger than the other mustard species (6 grams per 1,000 seeds), which aids in rapid seedling establishment. In Europe the crop is frequently sown and ploughed under as a green manure crop.

The Chemistry of Mustard

All three mustard species contain a significant amount of edible oil and high quality protein. Indeed on the Indian subcontinent B. juncea seeds are the second most important source of edible vegetable oil, and the residual high protein meal, after it is soaked in water, is fed to cattle. However, for the spice trade the important ingredient is the presence and concentration in the seeds of sulphur compounds called glucosinolates. Over forty such compounds are known, and their presence and quantity determines the flavor and odor of the cole vegetables as well as the taste and heat of the mustards. The glucosinolate that imparts the pungency and flavor to black and B. juncea mustards is called "sinigrin," while in Sinapis alba it is "sinalbin." When the seeds are stored whole and dry, they retain their quality for several years. However, when the cells of a mustard seed are broken and moisture is present, the enzyme myrosinase, also present in the seed, breaks down the glucosinolates to release sugar, sulphur, and the hot principles called isothiocynates. Black and B. juncea mustard seeds release the pungent, volatile, biting allyl isothiocynate found in powdered and Dijon mustards. Yellow mustard, on the other hand, releases the milder, nonvolatile para-hydroxybenzyl isothiocynate characteristic of hot dog or cream salad mustard.

Making Mustard

English powdered mustard is made from brown or Oriental (yellow seeded) B. juncea seeds using a dry milling process in which the seeds are passed through a series of rollers and sieves to produce a fine flour. The seed coats, which are cracked off by the first roller, may be used in food preparation or sent to an oil extraction mill. The pure mustard flour is then blended with some yellow mustard flour, prepared separately in the same way, plus a certain amount of wheat flour to give the desired level of heat when mixed with water.

French or Dijon-style mustard is made with only brown mustard seeds using a wet milling process in which whole seeds are ground to a fine paste and the hulls or seed coats are separated with centrifuges. Some of the hulls may be added back to the paste along with vinegar, herbs, and spices. Since the hot principle allyl isothiocynate is volatile, much of the heat is lost in the process, resulting in less pungency than might be expected from B. juncea seeds.

Hot dog or cream salad mustard is made from yellow mustard seeds using a wet milling process that creates a fine paste. However, the hulls are usually separated from the embryos by passing the seeds through a set of break rollers prior to grinding. The paste is then mixed with cereal flours, spices, and vinegar according to the recipe being followed.

Mustard seeds and leaves have also been harvested as a food and for medicinal purposes. The medical applications, such as mustard plasters, baths, and treatments for chilblains, are largely a thing of the past, but mustard greens and mustard seed oil are still household staples in parts of China and on the Indian subcontinent.

Modern Mustard

Mustard was a common spice in ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations, where it was often eaten raw, chewed with meat to mask off flavors, to aid digestion, and for its antimicrobial properties. However, the Romans recognized mustard's potential by grinding and mixing mustard flours with unfermented grape juice, vinegar, and honey. They introduced mustard manufacture into Dijon and other regions of France and later into England. They recorded its application as a preservative and its use in sauces with meat, fish, and vegetables. In medieval times mustard making was primarily done by the monasteries, but by the thirteenth century French family firms supplied quality mustard to French royalty. In England large-scale mustard manufacture did not flourish until the sixteenth century, when large dried balls of mustard infused with horseradish were manufactured in Tewkesbury and were sold by peddlers throughout the country. Later Mrs. Clements in Durham began to mill and distribute mustard flour, a product later made famous by the competing firms of Keen's and Colman's. In the United States, R. T. French, seeking a milder mustard in the 1800s, introduced cream salad and hot dog mustard, thereby adding a new dimension to the mustard industry.

In the second half of the twentieth century, world usage of mustard more than doubled, from 75,000 tons to over 170,000 tons. Originally most countries grew their own supplies, but by the twenty-first century the predominant supplier was Canada. The United States and central Europe also are important producers. Yellow mustard has become more important with the popularity of fast-food outlets. In addition, a strong demand developed for deheated yellow mustard because of its high protein content and excellent emulsifying, water-holding, and stabilizing characteristics. It is also widely used as a meat extender in prepared meats. The hulls of yellow mustard are also in demand for the unique properties of the mucilage (vegetable gum) they contain.

Specialty mustards, which include almost every possible blend of added flavors and range of textures, have grown dramatically. Popular formulations include ingredients such as honey, beer, wines, whiskey, garlic, horse-radish, lemon peel, ginger, onion, peppers, tarragon, and so forth (see Man and Weir for a more extensive list).The Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in Wisconsin boasts a collection of 3,341 different prepared mustards. The use of mustard in restaurants and in home cooking has expanded and become more subtle and more adventurous.


Antol, M. N., and B. Levenson. The Incredible Secrets of Mustard. Garden City Park, N.Y.: Avery, 1999.

Holder, K., and J. Newdick. A Dash of Mustard. Willowdale, Ont.: Firefly Books, 1995.

Man, R., and R. Weir. The Compleat Mustard. London: Constable, 1988.

Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. Available at

Vaughan, J. G., and J. S. Hemingway. "The Utilization of Mustards." Economic Botany 13 (1959): 196204.

R. Keith Downey

Mustard flour and oil have strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

In addition to the American-style hot dog mustard and the well-known Dijon style, there exists a multitude of "specialty" mustards as well as such variations as the Russian (hot and sweet), the Chinese (extra hot), the English (smooth and hot), the German (hot, smooth, and horseradishy), and the Italian mostarda di frutla (a thin, sweet, very hot mustard syrup containing large pieces of various fruits).

Four major mustard millers supply flour of various grades to processors the world over, largely replacing small local mustard millers.


views updated May 23 2018


A piquant condiment made from the seeds of the mustard plant. When the seeds are crushed, two elements, myronate and myrasin, are released, creating a fiery tasting essence. It is either left in a powdered form to which the consumer adds water; or it is mixed with water, wine, vinegar, or a combination of these ingredients, in a food processing plant.


Mustard seeds have been used for culinary purposes since prehistoric times. You will find mention of them in the Bible. The plants were cultivated in Palestine and then made their way to Egypt where they have been found in the pyramids.

The seeds were chewed during meals, quite possibly to disguise the rank flavor of spoiled meat. The Romans were known to crush the seeds and mix them with verjuice (unripened grape juice). Greek and Roman cooks used the seeds in a flour form, or mixed into a fish brine to flavor both fish and meat.

By the fourth century, mustard was being used in Gaul and Burgundy. Pope John XXII was so enamored of its flavor that he created a new office, grand moutardier du pape (great mustardmaker to the pope), and installed his nephew as the first moutardier.

In 1390, the French government issued regulations for the manufacture of mustard, decreeing that it contain nothing more than "good seed and suitable vinegar." Two hundred years later, corporations of vinegar and mustard manufacturers were founded at Orleans and Dijon.

Mustard popularity increased in the eighteenth century, thanks to two innovators. An Englishwoman named Clements developed a recipe that combined mustard powder with water. She traveled the countryside selling her product, keeping its ingredients a secret. King George I is said to have been a frequent customer. In Dijon, France, a mustard manufacturer named Niageon created a recipe for a strong mustard that combined black and brown seeds with verjuice.

In 1777, one of the most famous names in mustard was created when Maurice Grey, who had invented a machine to crush, grind and sieve seeds, joined forces with Auguste Poupon. The resulting Grey-Poupon Dijon mustard is made from brown or black mustard seeds that have been mixed with white wine.

In 1804, a British flour miller named Jeremiah Colman expanded his business to include the milling of mustard seeds. His process for producing his dry mustard is virtually unchanged since that time, with the only alteration being the use of brown seeds instead of black ones. Brown and white seeds are ground separately and then sifted through silk to filter out the seed hulls and bran. The two mustards are then blended and poured into tins.

By the turn of the century, an American named Francis French was also finding success making mustard. French's version was milder, made solely with white seeds, colored bright yellow with tumeric and made tart with vinegar.

The process by which mustard is made has not changed substantially over the years. The seeds are cleaned, crushed, sieved, and sifted. A variety of liquids such as wine and vinegar are added to make prepared mustards. Just like Mrs. Clements of Great Britain, however, manufacturers are still secretive about the precise measurements of each ingredient.

Today, most of the work is done by sophisticated machinery. In the earliest times, the seeds were crushed and grinded by hand. Then, steam-powered stampers were used. Now, the seeds are loaded into roller mills that can flatten and hull them simultaneously.

Raw Materials

Brown (Brassica juncea) and white (Sinapis alba) mustard seeds are used to make mustard. They are sown in March and April, the plants usually flower in June, harvesting takes place in September. It is important to harvest before the pods are fully ripe because they will split and spill the seeds out. An 8 oz (226.8 g) jar of mustard requires approximately 1,000 seeds.

Before the invention of modern farming procedures, much of the work was done by hand. Quality was difficult to assure. Today, plant breeding allows the farmer to produce a consistently high quality seed. Combines have eliminated the back-breaking work of hand-cutting the plants with sickles.

Eighty-five percent of the world's mustard seeds are grown in Canada, Montana, and North Dakota. Most mustard producers purchase seeds from a cooperative. The seeds are stored by the tens of thousands in silos until they are ready to be used. Samples are taken from each shipment and tested for quality.

Vinegar, water and/or white wine are purchased from an outside supplier and added to the milled mustard seed to make a paste. A variety of spices including tumeric, garlic, paprika, and salt are added to the mustard paste for flavoring and color. These are purchased from outside supplier. Other ingredients may be added to the mustard paste to create flavored varieties. These ingredients are purchased from an outside supplier and range from lemon to honey to horseradish.

The Manufacturing

Seeds are examined, cleaned,
dried, and stored

  • 1 When the seeds arrive from the harvester, they are visually examined for quality. They are then loaded onto conveyer belts and passed under water sprayers to remove dirt and other debris. After the seeds dry, they are stored in silos until ready to use.

Seeds are soaked

  • 2 Some companies soak the mustard seeds in wine and vinegar for lengths of time ranging from a few hours to several days. This softens the seeds, making the hulls easier to remove.

Seeds are crushed and ground

  • 3 The seeds are loaded into roller mills, where large wheels crush and grind them into a flour. Some companies subject the seeds to numerous rounds of crushing and grinding in order to obtain a desired degree of fineness.

Hulls and bran are sifted out

  • 4 The crushed seeds are passed through sieves, so that the hulls and bran fall to a tray underneath. Heartier varieties of mustard may include the hulls.

Liquids added to the seed flour

  • 5 The seed flour is loaded into large mixing vats and specific proportions of white wine, vinegar and/or water are added. The mixture is blended until a paste is created.

Seasonings and/or flavorings are

  • 6 Pre-measured amounts of seasoning and/or flavorings are added to the paste and blended thoroughly.

Mustard paste is heated and

  • 7 The mustard mixture is then heated to a pre-determined temperature and allowed to simmer for a pre-determined time. It is then cooled to room temperature. Some varieties of mustard are aged in large containers before they are bottled.

The mustard is bottled and packed
for shipment

  • 8 Pre-measured amounts of mustard are poured into glass jars or plastic bottles that are moving along a conveyer belt. Lids are vacuum-sealed onto the tops of the containers. The containers are then loaded into cartons for shipment.

Quality Control

All manufacturers check the mustard at each point in the process. Government food processing regulations set parameters for cleanliness in the plant. These regulations include all utensils and machinery, floors, and workers' garments

The Future

In the United States, mustard is used more than any other spice except pepper. Mustard is also popular in Europe and Asia. By the late twentieth century, mustard cookery became a favorite of both professional and amateur chefs. Recipes were developed to use mustard as a marinade for meats and fish. Mustard sauces were developed for a wide variety of dishes. The number and types of flavors seem to be restricted only by the imagination.

Where to Learn More


Jordan, Michele Anna. The Good Cook's Book of Mustard. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1994.

Lang, Jenifer Harvey, ed. Larousse Gastronomique. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988, reprinted 1998.

Roberts-Dominguez, Jan. The Mustard Book. New York: Macmillan, 1993.


Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. 109 E. Main Street, Mount Horeb, WI 53572. (608) 437-3986. (June 29, 1999).

Nabisco. (June 29, 1999).

Unofficial Colman's mustard site. (June 29, 1999).



views updated May 18 2018


MUSTARD (Heb. חַרְדָּל, ḥardal), the name applied to two species, the common mustard (Sinapis alba), known in rabbinical literature as "Egyptian mustard," and the kind called simply "mustard." The latter was extracted from the seeds of a different botanical genus, Brassica nigra, the mustard prepared from it being darker and more pungent than the former. This species, like white mustard, grows wild in Ereẓ Israel but was also cultivated. Given favorable conditions, the plant reaches a height of more than six feet. The aggadah relates that a man having sown "a single seed of mustard… would climb it as he would a fig tree" (tj, Pe'ah 7:4, 206). The seed of this species is very small (1–1.6 mm.) and was used to indicate the smallest measure of size (Ber. 31a). The contrast between the size of the plant and the seed is used in a parable in the New Testament (Matt. 13:31). Although these two species of mustard belong to different botanical genera they are very similar in appearance (except that the white mustard plant is smaller and its seed larger). Hence the rule that mustard and Egyptian mustard do not constitute *mixed species (kilayim; Kil. 1:2). Both have conspicuous yellow flowers (cf. Kil. 2:8–9). In Israel there are many species belonging to the family of Cruciferae which have yellow flowers and seeds with a pungent flavor. Among these the species Sinapis arvensis is very widespread. This is called in the Mishnah lafsan ("charlock") and it was laid down that "mustard and charlock, although resembling one another, do constitute kilayim" (Kil. 1:5).


Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 516–27; H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), 316 (index), s.v.; J. Feliks, Kilei Zera'im ve-Harkavah (1967), 65–67, 256–69, 284–6; idem, Ẓimḥiyyat ha-Mishnah, in: Marot ha-Mishnah, Seder Zera'im (1967), 55f. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 69, 70, 97.

[Jehuda Feliks]


views updated May 11 2018

mus·tard / ˈməstərd/ • n. 1. a pungent-tasting yellow or brown paste made from the crushed seeds of certain plants, typically eaten with meat or used as a cooking ingredient. 2. the yellow-flowered Eurasian plant (genera Brassica and Sinapis) of the cabbage family whose seeds are used to make this paste. 3. a dark yellow color.PHRASES: cut the mustardsee cut.DERIVATIVES: mus·tard·y adj.


views updated May 29 2018

mustard originally prepared with ‘must’ (new wine). It is frequently used to evoke ideas of warmth and enthusiasm, as in keen as mustard.
Colonel Mustard is the name of one of the six stock characters constituting the murderer and suspects in the game of Cluedo.
a grain of mustard seed a proverbial expression for something which, while small in itself, is capable of great development; the allusion is to Matthew 13:31, in which the kingdom of heaven is likened to a grain of mustard seed, tiny when it is sown, but becoming a tree when grown. (The plant referred to is thought to be the black mustard plant, which in Palestine grows to a great height.)

See also cut the mustard.


views updated May 29 2018

mustard Powdered seeds of black or brown mustard (Brassica nigra or B. juncea), or white or yellow mustard (Sinapsis alba), or a mixture. English mustard contains not more than 10% wheat flour and turmeric (still referred to in parts of England as Durham mustard, after Mrs Clements of Durham who produced the first commercial dried mustard in 1722).

French mustard: made from dehusked seeds (the light‐coloured Dijon) or black or brown seeds with salt, spices, and white wine or unripe grape juice. Bordeaux (usually called French mustard) is black and brown seeds mixed with sugar, vinegar, and herbs. Meaux mustard is grainy and made with mixed seeds.

American mustard, mild and sweet, is made with white seeds, sugar, vinegar, and turmeric.


views updated May 14 2018

mustard seeds of black and white mustard (plant of the genus Brassica) powdered and used as a condiment, etc. XIII. — OF. mo(u)starde (mod. moutarde), f. Rom. *mosto, L. mustum MUST1; prop. applied to the condiment as orig. prepared by making the ground seeds into a paste with must.


views updated May 23 2018

mustard Any of various species of annual and perennial plants, native to the temperate zone. These plants have pungent-flavoured leaves, cross-shaped, four-petalled flowers and carry pods. The seeds of some species are ground to produce the condiment, mustard. Height: 1.8–4m (6–13ft). Family Brassicaceae/Cruciferae.