Mustard is an extremely versatile plant, which lends its fiery flavour to a lot of dishes and condiments through the use of it as both a herb and a spice. Botanically speaking, mustard is a member of the brassica family along with vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, and as such it contains a high level of sulphur that’s responsible for the warmth we taste in it, particularly in the seeds.
Mustard can be increased either for salad use or for its seeds, which are the main ingredient of the table condiment that most individuals think of when they hear the word’mustard’. The leaves may be a little strong for use by themselves, but make a excellent combination with other salads of character such as rocket, baby spinach or watercress.
Most of us, however, are more familiar with mustard in the guise of a potently hot yellow paste that we use either in cooking or as a condiment – most famously of course on these regular foods as hot dogs and hamburgers. Many kinds of table mustard can be found, varying in intensity from the comparatively mild American mustard to the sinus-clearing English variety. German and French mustards have their own distinctive personalities, and even in France there are many types available – comparison the conventional, brown-coloured French Mustard with the milder, creamier, paler Dijon variety.
Table mustards are made by grinding down the seeds of this mature mustard plant and mixing the results with a little liquid, usually vinegar, together with a seasoning of pepper and salt, and maybe a little sugar to take the edge off the heat. The strength of the finished mustard depends in part on what kind of seeds are used. Black, white and yellow varieties are available, each with various strengths and attributes, and naturally there are several different breeds of mustard plant grown, and each will have a slightly different flavour.
Lots of people think that they don’t like the flavor of mustard, and it’s true it can be something of an acquired taste. If you tried it as a youngster and were put off for life, why not give it another go now that you have a more mature and developed sense of taste?
If you’re tempted to use it in this manner, then use a mix of 10% mustard to 90% flour, and blended to a paste with water. Be sure though to avoid applying it to sensitive areas, and take great care to prevent the eyes!
In the end, mustard is commonly used agriculturally, equally as fodder for livestock and as a’green manure’ that can be grown quickly and then plowed back into the soil to enrich and fertilize it in preparation for growing the principal harvest the following spring.