Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Little Seed That Could

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give a presenation on mustard & mustard making at SIAST, for the 3rd year culinary students. I gave both a verbal presentation and a demonstration on how to make mustard (we made a Spicy German Mustard).

I thought I would share some of the more interesting facts about mustard :)

  • Saskatchewan produces the most mustard seed in Canada, & Canada is the world's largest exporter of mustard in the world.
  • There is evidence which shows that humans chewed mustard seeds 10's of 1,000's of years ago.
  • Mustard was used medicinally in Chine 5,000 yrs before the birth of Christ.
  • Mustard is mentioned 5 times in the Bible (as well as in other sacred writings of different faiths). It is described as 'the least of all seeds'. Because mustard seeds are so tiny, it is almost a miracle that they can become a tree. What can be learned from the mustard seeds is that from something tiny & almost insignificant, the outcome can be staggering.
  • In North American, mustard is the 2nd most used spice, behind only black pepper.
  • The mustard plant is from the Brassica family, and is a cruciferous plant. The term cruciferous comes from the flowers having 4 petals, two long & two short, thereby resembling a cross.
  • The word mustard comes from 2 words: 'mouste (or 'must'), derived from the Early Middle English word 'moutard', and 'ardens', meaning 'burning'.
  • There are 3 basic seed varieties: yellow (or white), which is used for what we call 'ballpark mustard'; brown, which is most associated with Dijon-style mustard; and black (actually a reddish-brown), which is smaller than the yellow or brown seeds, but pack the most pungency. Black mustard seeds are used in East Indian cooking and for medicinal purposes.
  • The heat of mustard is produced by a chemical reaction which occurs when the cracked mustard seed is exposed to cold water; the reaction occurs between an enzyme & a substance called glycoside. The peak heat produced occurs around 15 minutes after the reaction begins. To halt, or retard, the heat, the mixture can be left at room temperature, where it will start to lose it's heat; placing it in the fridge will hold it at whatever heat level it is at; adding hot water will inhibit the reaction; adding salt or an acidic liquid will also inhibit the reaction. These methods are all used, sometimes in combination, to control the heat produced in the resulting mustard.
  • The controls surrounding the making of French mustard are as strict as controls over wine production.
  • The recipe for Dijon mustard has been kept secret for more than 200 years.
  • The mustard seed used to produce Dijon mustard comes almost exclusively from Saskatchewan.
  • In Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, a man by the name of Barry Levenson founded The Mustard Museum, which contains more than 4,400 varieties of mustard. It is his aim to have a sample of every mustard created in the world. Some people REALLY love mustard!
  • There is truth to the 'old wive's tale' of using a mustard plaster (where the mustard is not in direct contact with the skin, but applied to a cloth, which then sits on the skin). The reason that mustard, applied externally, relieves chest congestion and joint pain, is that the area becomes irritated by the the mustard's heat, thereby increasing circulation to the area. Mustard applied directly to the skin can produce burns & blisters.

So there you go - some fun facts about mustard, one of Saskatchewan's greatest products!

Michelle Zimmer


Wild Serendipity Foods

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