YORKTON - Cold weather and comfort cooking go together so well don’t they! And while doing that, it is interesting how often the questions comes up: Where does this ingredient come from?
A favorite flavor in the kitchen is mustard, and as gardeners we might be surprised to learn that the mustard plant, which gives us the delicious condiment that we love, is part of the brassica family, cousins to turnips, radishes and canola. The seeds of the mustard plant are the stars that bring it fame.
Mustard and its seeds go back about six thousand years and are most familiar by their mention in the Bible. All through the centuries, the quest of finding flavorings for food has always been of importance and being able to store and preserve the flavorings was also of importance. Mustard seeds were mixed with various spices and oil and used to flavor meat. The seeds were stored dried, or mixed with zingy horseradish and then dried, and mixed with water when needed to make sauce.
Since then, mustard has evolved into an epicurean delight, with many kinds of mustard that go beyond the delicious and versatile yellow mustard we all know and love. There is French mustard (mild and dark brown in color); whole grain mustard; hot mustard; honey mustard; the list goes on and on.
Now, some interesting factoids about mustard. Did you know that commercial mustard production began in Canada in 1936? And guess what? The world’s largest mustard exporters are mustard growers in Saskatchewan! There are two different kinds of mustard grown in Saskatchewan, and from these wonderful plants, three main kinds of mustard are produced. There is yellow mustard which comes from sinapis alba mustard; brown mustard, which comes from brassica juncea, and goes mostly to Europe; and oriental mustard, also from brassica juncea, which finds its way to mustard lovers in Asia.
But home gardeners can grow mustard, too! We’ve probably all seen recipes on tv for “mustard greens”, or perhaps seen salad mixes that include mustard leaves. We can grow it in our gardens and use not only the leaves but the seeds, too.
Mustard should be planted about three weeks before our last frost. Plant the seed thinly, about an inch apart. Once they’re up, keep them well-watered. They don’t mind cooler temperatures, probably preferring them to hot weather, which makes them bolt. When the plants are about four inches tall, we could give them a treat with a bit of fertilizer.
Over the season, we can harvest the small leaves and use them in salads; the flowers make a tangy addition as well to a beautiful salad. If the leaves get a bit bigger, we can use them as delicious additions to stews or soups. All the while, we should keep an eye on the pods; once they start to mature and turn brown, we should pick them, dry them for about two weeks, then gently break open the pods and save those yummy and versatile seeds! From what I have read, if the pods break open in our gardens, we’ll have mustard making a return visit next year, wanted or not, so we must be vigilant to gather those pods while we may! See what’s new with the Yorkton hort society at www.yorktonhort.ca. Thank you to our friends at YTW for their great work.
Browse the seed catalogues, sign up for a class at the U of S, but remember, there is always something new to learn with gardening! Have a great week!