Mustard plants are a variety of plants of which the seeds are used as a spice and the leaves are eaten directly. Broccoli, cauliflower, radish and turnip are part of the same family as mustard amongst many other edible plants. There are three types of mustard seeds: yellow, brown and black.The black and brown seeds have the strongest flavour, the black have a faintly nutty aftertaste whilst the brown are slightly sweeter. Classic yellow mustard gets its colour not from the yellow flowers or seeds of the mustard plant but from turmeric.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, mustard was cultivated by the Indus Valley civilisation of 2500-1700 BC. The Ancient Egyptians spiced their food with it and the Greeks and Romans used it as medicine too, the Romans prescribing it for an incredible range of conditions, from mania to snakebites.
Mustard that we slather across our sandwiches began in the 13th Century when Pope John XXII of Avignon (who had a particular fondness for mustard) created the position of ‘Grand Moustadier du Pape’ or the ‘Grand Mustard Maker to the Pope’ for his nephew (who presumably had nothing better to do at the time). Although mustard was always popular, and was even mixed with water by the Romans to create a fiery tonic, this mustard caught on in a big way, and in 1390 the French government issued a decree that mustard must contain nothing more than “good seed and suitable vinegar”. Robert and George French presented their yellow mustard at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair as a condiment to put on hot dogs.
Mustard greens are rich in antioxidants such as lutein, flavonoids, vitamin E and C and beta carotenes. Mustard seeds contain selenium which is good for bones, hair and nails, the little seeds contain a lot of fibre and are great for digestion, while also containing anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants. Mustard oil can improve cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Hooray for mustard!!