Grow Mustard, A Must For The Spice Gardener (Book Excerpt)

In this excerpt from "Grow Your Own Spices," author Tasha Greer explains why you should grow mustard in your spice garden this year.

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by Hobby Farms HQMay 13, 2022
PHOTO: Tasha Greer

The following excerpt is from Tasha Greer’s Grow Your Own Spices : Harvest homegrown ginger, turmeric, saffron, wasabi, vanilla, cardamom, and other incredible spices (Cool Springs Press, January 2021) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.

grow spices mustard
Cool Springs Press

Mustard seed is the second-most consumed spice on the planet, behind black peppercorns. Canada and Nepal are the world’s top mustard producers. Despite being 68 times smaller than Canada, Nepal has even held the number one mustard production spot.

Mustard seed oil is a staple of the Nepalese diet. The raw oil is bitter and must be heated until it smokes to add the complex, savory flavor synonymous with Nepalese cooking.

In Nepal, culinary influences come from India, China, Tibet, and elsewhere. Recipes are adapted for use with available local produce and protein sources. As a result, there is a huge variety of regional cuisine styles in such a small country. Yet mustard seed, or its oil, makes it into nearly every meal.

You don’t have to live in the Himalayas to cultivate a love for and an abundant supply of mustard seeds. Plant a handful of seeds into prepared soil in early spring and mustard practically grows itself.

Mustard Types

White or yellow mustard is the variety used for hot dog mustard. It’s mainly grown as a field crop and a cover crop.

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Black mustard seeds have hard outer coatings that pop like popcorn when roasted. They have a strong flavor and are used for oil production and seasoning.

Leaf mustard, Brassica juncea, is commonly grown by home gardeners. These plants also produce large quantities of tasty brown seeds that can be used as a substitute for white, yellow, or black mustard seeds. For the home gardener, leaf mustard is most beautiful to grow and provides edible greens too.


Read more: Check out this recipe for funky fermented whole grain mustard!


Mustard Care

Mustard can grow in poor soil, though it’s more pest and disease prone. In compost- rich soil, mustard can tolerate pH ranges from 5.0–8.0. Before planting, add 3 inches (7.5 cm) of compost and incorporate a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer such as feather meal or soybean meal to the soil.

Plant seeds 1/4 inch (6 mm) deep in early spring. Overseed and eat the extra seedlings as baby greens when they are 2 inches (5 cm) tall. Remaining plants need 8–10 inches (20–25 cm) of space.

Aim for 40–60 days of growing time at temperatures between 50–75 degrees F (13–24 degrees C) to limit bolting. When plants begin to flower, they can grow 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) tall.

Mustard can develop a 3-foot (1 m)-long taproot. Grow this spice in prepared ground, in deep raised beds, or in deep containers.

Harvesting

Harvest before the oldest pods feel papery. Cut the seed tops just above the last leaves. Place in a paper bag, or use the candy wrapper method, to finish drying. Thresh and remove the chaff.

Plan on 3–5 tablespoons (45–150 ml) of seeds per plant when it’s planted in good soil.

Spice Profile

  • Names: Brown or Leaf Mustard
  • Latin: Brassica juncea
  • Native to: Cultivated worldwide
  • Edible parts: Entire plant
  • Culinary use: Tangy, similar to horseradish, used in grain mustard

Spice Profile

  • Names: White or Yellow Mustard
  • Latin: Sinapis alba
  • Native to: Morocco, Europe
  • Edible parts: Entire plant
  • Culinary use: Mild taste used for hot dog mustard

Spice Profile

  • Name: Black Mustard
  • Latin: Brassica nigra
  • Native to: North Africa, Europe, Asia
  • Edible parts: Entire plant
  • Culinary use: Strong nutty flavor, seeds are cooked until they pop, also used for oil

Growing Conditions

  • Cool-season crop; optimal seed starting 50–75 degrees F (13–24 degrees C); mature plant tolerance 28–85 degrees F (-2–29 degrees C)
  • Some frost tolerance; susceptible to pests in heat
  • Full sun to part shade; grows in most soil types; pH 5.0–8.0
  • 2–5 days for seed germination; 20–40 days for leaf harvest; 100+ days to seed harvest
  • Self-fertile, cross-pollination

Read more: Add mighty mustard greens to the garden!


Recommended

Mustard plants make a lot of seeds, so the pods grow heavy. Stake sections of plants upright or just allow room for its natural arching habit when seeding. The profusion of seedpods, in various states of drying, is even more beautiful than mustard flowers.

The young leaves of this Brassica juncea are frilly and beautiful. Plant extra and harvest the young leaves as salad greens. Grow your best seedlings into spice plants.

Medicinal Tip

Mustard is known for its potent volatile oils. When used in powdered mustard seed packs or plasters, these oils create a rubefacient effect on the skin, drawing blood to the area on which the mustard is applied. This circulatory stimulating activity can soothe sore muscles, reduce joint inflammation, and decrease pain as a result. Use caution as mustard can cause irritation when applied topically.

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