Loaded with vitamins and minerals, mustard seeds are a popular ingredient of Indian and American cuisine. It can be used as a spice, but the most well-known application of course is as the basis for the condiment that goes with your hot dogs.
Mustard seed has been used since ancient times. The earliest mention of the mustard seed dates back to a 5th century BC story from India about Gautama Buddha. Its most well-known use is of course in the preparation of mustard, when the seed is ground and mixed with water or vinegar to create a paste.
Mustard is native to temperate regions of Europe and has its historic base there. When the Second World War disrupted supplies, production crossed the Atlantic and found its way to North America as well. Mustards seeds have the same historic origins, as the tiny round seeds were first used the same areas of Europe – after which they became popular in Asia and North Africa as well. Available in different colors, mustard seeds have a plethora of health benefits and have been used for medicinal purposes for decades.
Mustard seed, as its name suggests, are the small seeds of the mustard plant. These 1 to 2-millimeter seeds can be found in several colors, depending on the plant. These plants include black mustard, brown Indian mustard, and white mustard. Brown and black mustard seeds return higher yields than their yellow counterparts.
The seeds of the mustard plant require a cold climate and moist soil to germinate, which takes between 3 and 10 days. When allowed to mature, the mustard plant grows into a shrub-like plant. About 4 to 6 weeks after germination, the mustard plant flowers. These flowers can be seen for around 2 weeks before they become pods over a 35 to 45-day period. Once the pods turn brown, the seeds are ready.
In total, mustard plants take approximately 3 months to produce seeds. The black and brown varieties produce a higher quantity of seeds than the yellow mustard plant. Depending on the water content of harvested seeds, cultivators may place them on mesh screens to dry out slightly. Others harvest the plant and hang it upside down until it releases the seeds into a collection container below.
According to WorldAtlas, Nepal is the world’s top mustard seed producer, accounting for about a quarter of global supply. Canada comes in as a close second, but is the world’s largest mustard seed exporter. The majority of these seeds are produced in the province of Alberta, followed by Saskatchewan. Other major producers include Russia, India, Pakistan, Ukraine and the US. In Pakistan, rapeseed-mustard is the second most important source of oil, after cotton.
Mustard is used as a condiment for many dishes, including as a topping for hamburgers and hot dogs. Throughout several countries, including India and Nepal, mustard seed is used as a spice. In powdered form mixed with mustard oil, it becomes the base for a traditional Indian pickle recipe. The seed is also roasted and used as a spicy element in many other dishes.