Beyond the taste, what should you know about mustard?
Mustard, also called mustard, is an herbaceous plant whose seeds are used to make the famous condiment of the same name. But the leaves and the stem of the plant are also eaten in the form of salad. Mustard belongs to the Brassicaceae family in the same way as cabbage, turnips, rapeseed, horseradish or watercress.
This hardy plant grows wild in fields and along roadsides, reaching up to 80 cm in height and covering itself in summer with yellow or white leaves. Alongside this wild mustard, there are many other cultivated mustard species in Europe such as white mustard, brown mustard or Chinese mustard and black mustard. It is a very ancient spice that the Chinese have known for more than 3000 years and which also marked the Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. Moreover, the parable of the mustard seed in the Bible attests to the importance of this tiny seed capable of becoming the largest of vegetable plants. Then the Romans brought mustard to Gaul where it was a great success. Throughout the Middle Ages, Europe made a strong consumption of this preparation obtained from crushed mustard seeds and mixed with grape must. Indeed, this “mustum ardens” or must with a fiery flavor, a term which could be the origin of the word “mustard”, accompanied the venison and charcuterie of the time. For others, the word "mustard" comes from the motto posted by Duke Philippe le Téméraire before he entered the city of Dijon in 1382: "Moult Me Tarde" which means "many are waiting for me" and which became the coat of arms of the city after omitting the word "Me". Which gave "Moult Tarde" then "Moutarde". Thus, in the 12th century, the city of Dijon became a reference for its know-how in the matter and its various preparations: black, gray or white mustard with a very strong taste or red mustard prepared with black grape must (basically , mustard seed is not a strong spice, it is its transformation that gives it its pungent taste). In the 16th century, Pope John XXII – who was particularly fond of this condiment – created the office of “First mustard maker of the Pope”. Nowadays, if you can still eat mustard greens in salads when they are young, it is mainly for its seeds that this plant is appreciated. There are also all kinds of mustards to suit different recipes. Indeed, depending on the ingredients added to the crushed seeds (cinnamon, honey, sugar, vinegar, fine herbs, wine, milk, etc.), the mustard is more or less strong. An essential ingredient in mayonnaise and vinaigrette or remoulade sauces, mustard still coats the famous mustard rabbit before baking it or other meats for roasting. This condiment thus gives a particular flavor to the meat, while preventing it from drying out during cooking. But in the kitchen, you can also savor the mustard leaves that you will find in oriental grocery stores in different ways. Less pungent than the old ones, the young leaves are eaten as a chiffonade in a salad or cooked like spinach or sautéed Chinese style with bean sprouts, snow peas, mushrooms and ginger to accompany rice. . Finally, mustard seeds are used in the preparation of curries in Indian cuisine and can also be germinated. This most famous condiment plant in the world has also always been used for its medicinal properties. From the 6th century BC, the mustard poultice was recognized as an anti-poison against scorpion bites; folk medicine has since made many mustard-based antidotes. Much closer to us, the mustard poultices that our grandmothers applied to us to fight the flu, neuralgia or absorb a bruise reveal the antiseptic properties of this plant. Its leaves are indeed rich in vitamins C, A, B and E, copper and iron: eaten raw, they constitute a powerful depurative and spring tonic, while used as a poultice or in a bath, mustard leaves stimulate the organization. As for mustard eaten as a condiment, its appetizing and antiseptic virtues are widely accepted. Finally, it is necessary to underline the important role that this plant plays on the ecological level. Indeed, if mustard is one of the most common weeds in cereal fields, it is nevertheless useful because its roots loosen compacted soils and its cultivation interrupts the cycle of diseases of cereals in general. Also, it is increasingly used as a green manure not only in organic farming, but also in conventional agriculture. Finally, mustard flowers attract bees, which make delicious honey from them and pollinate the surrounding gardens.