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Ground Mustard to Spice up Your Cooking

Updated on August 6, 2020
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I love cooking and recipe sharing! From tried and true dishes to creative meals, I love stirring up something new!

Let me Re-Introduce You to Mustard

When you hear the word mustard, you probably think of the fluorescent yellow condiment available at the local hot dog stand. However, ground mustard has many more sophisticated uses.

Whether incorporated as part of a dry rub, or stirred into a homemade salad dressing or soup, ground mustard has a distinct flavor that can liven up your recipes. Mustard is found in cuisines worldwide, but it particularly spices up foods from the Caribbean, the Mediterranean region, and India. Wikipedia reports that it is "one of the most popular and widely used spices and condiments in the world."

Let's take a look at the history of the mustard spice and consider how you can use mustard in your cooking to add new, unexpected flavors to your meals. For the Martha Stewarts of the bunch (and that would not include yours truly) you can even grow your own plants from mustard seeds. Heck, anyone can grow cilantro.... but you can be the mustard master!

The mustard plant
The mustard plant

It Started with a Mustard Seed

Ground mustard spice is created by taking the seeds from several different species of mustard plants (two black and one white), and grinding them into a fine dust with a mortar and pestle. A coarser grind can be used to create "stone ground" mustard, which you'll find at your local gourmet cooking store. In fact, you can even store whole mustard seeds in your spice rack. Any ordinary coffee or spice grinder can be used to break down whole seeds for a wide variety of recipes.

Mustards come in a range of colors from bright yellow to dark brown. Its flavor is aggressively pungent, with a bit of heat. If you prepare your own homemade mustard condiment, be prepared for more intense flavor than you'll find in a jar of Grey Poupon! When creating your own mustard condiment, the ground mustard seeds are mixed with vinegar, water, turmeric and other spices.

As you probably already know, mustard spreads are excellent on sandwiches and marry well with a variety of meats and cheeses (ham and swiss on rye with coarse ground mustard is my personal favorite!) However, using ground mustard in salad dressings, marinades, soups and sauces can give your meals an unexpected kick.

Did you know that it's a key ingredient in most pickle spices?

Ground mustard seed creates the spice
Ground mustard seed creates the spice

Fascinating Facts about Mustard

  • The word "mustard" is derived from the Old French words "must," which refers to a sour wine, and "ardens," which means burning. Gives you a little perspective about the burning flavor of homemade mustard sauces, doesn't it?
  • Mustard is a common name for an entire family and genus of herbal plants. If you are familiar with candytuft, alyssum, watercress and radish, then you know common mustard plants. In fact, more than 100 plant species are included in the mustard genus - from broccoli to cauliflower to cabbage and Brussels sprouts, the weed-like plants grow across northern and other temperate climate regions....Who knew that mustard was so prevalent in our daily vegetable diets and gardens?
  • In addition to using mustard seeds to prepare spices and sauces, the leaves of the mustard plant can be incorporated into salads. The wild greens are bitter, yet tender.
  • Recent research has suggested the possible use of mustard plants for creation of biodiesel, which can be used as a clean, green alternative to motor oil or diesel fuel. Take that, BP!
  • To continue with the potential "green" uses of mustard, some have noted that mustard oil can be used as an effective, chemical-free pesticide, safe for consumers, the environment and bees!
  • Mustard was originally called "Sinapsis," but in Roman times, the spice/condiment became known as Mustum or Mustardum as sour wine was mixed with hot tasting mustard seeds.

Use Mustard Spice in your Cooking

There are so many ways in which you can incorporate mustard spice in your cooking. Whether you use ground mustard, mustard seeds, or even prepared mustard, you'll enjoy the slight heat and unique flavor in your marinades, rubs, dressings and more.

Mustard tastes great mixed with other bold flavors or as a spice that brings out smoky tastes. Whether you go for a stone-ground mustard dip for your pretzels, or a sweet, mustard honey glaze for baked ham, you cannot go wrong.

Mustard seeds prior to grinding
Mustard seeds prior to grinding

Growing Mustard Plants

If you want easy (inexpensive) access to mustard seeds, you might want to consider growing your own mustard plants. Fortunately, they are weed-like and can thrive in many environments. No wonder mustard is a spice used world-wide.... it can grow anywhere!

eHow notes that it is super easy to grow mustard in your own garden. Because the plants grow like weeds, you'll want to find an area that is not already occupied by other plants. Give your mustard plants full sun.

1. Plant in early spring, aiming for a late summer or fall harvest. If you are growing from seeds, plant them about 1/2 inch deep, about 3 inches apart. Each row should be about 1 foot separated.

2. After planting, continue to water and fertilize your mustard plants. They will reach maturity about 6 weeks later. Keep other encroaching weeds out of your garden or containers.

3. You can pick mustard greens when they are tender and young, after maturity.

4. For mustard seeds, wait until the plants start to yellow and wilt to harvest. The best time is when pods are still on the plant but before they have burst.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Stephanie Marshall


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