What is Mustard?
Several varieties of mustard are native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, having been highly valued by the Romans thousands of years ago. Its medicinal uses were primarily as a liniment, poultice and emetic. The first documented attempts to prepare mustard seed for table use came from Durham, England where it was discovered that mustard was easier to use if ground to a fine powder similar to wheat flour. The pale yellow powder that was subsequently produced by milling and sifting mustard seed became the first commercially available mustard flour and was appropriately named “Durham Mustard.”
Mustard plants thrive in cool, temperate areas. The primary sources of North American mustard are the northern plains of the United States and the central provinces of Canada where plants grow 2 – 3 feet high and produce small, bright yellow flowers. Mustard seed is harvested and processed much like wheat to produce ground mustard seed, mustard bran and mustard flours. The two main types of mustard used are yellow mustard, Brassica hirta, and oriental mustard, Brassica juncea. Oriental mustard is used mainly for its pungent “mouth heat,” while yellow mustard is typically used for its numerous functionalities including emulsification, antioxidant properties, texture, color and flavor enhancements.
What is it used for today?
In addition to the prepared condiments known as mustard (including hot, Oriental style), ground yellow mustard is a principal component of hot dogs and other meats due to its emulsion and binding properties. The finer yellow mustard flour is essential to many salad dressing/mayonnaise seasonings for texture and flavor improvements. Mustard based seasonings such as honey mustard
are used in everything from snack foods to cooking sauces.