Brown Mustard

Brassica juncea

Herbs gallery - Brown Mustard

Common names

  • Brown Mustard
  • Chinese Mustard
  • Indian Mustard
  • Oriental Mustard
  • Russian Mustard
  • Sarepta Mustard

People have been growing mustard for more than 5000 years for their beneficial seeds. While the white mustard is indigenous to the Mediterranean region, North Africa and central Asia, brown mustard (botanical name Brassica juncea) has its origin in Asia. All varieties of mustards are annual plants, usually growing up to a height of 60 cm to 120 cm (2 feet to 4 feet). Both, the white and brown mustards also grow in the wild in the form of weeds.

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In fact, both white and brown mustards are basically seed mustards and ought not to be mistaken to be vegetable mustards, for instance, mustard greens. While even the leaves of the seed mustards are safe to eat, those of the vegetable mustards possess a better flavour. White and brown mustards possess a spicy flavour and have deep green, intensely cut lower leaves. On the other hand, the upper leaves of both these seed mustards are comparatively less divided, particularly in the case of the brown mustard.

In the case of white mustards, both the stems and branches usually have hairs, while brown mustard is somewhat hairy. Both these varieties of seed mustards bear wobbly clusters of yellow blooms, which begin to blossom approximately five to six weeks after the emergence of the seedlings. Flowers of the white mustard are rather larger compared to the flowers of brown mustard.

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While the seed pods of brown mustard that form closely to the stem of the plant have a plump, cylindrical shape when mature, the seed pods of white mustard stick out from the stem and have an elongated, beak-shape tip. The seeds of brown mustard have a brownish or yellow hue and they emit a noticeably exasperating smell when they are crushed. On the other hand, the seeds of white mustard have a white or yellow color and they are odourless. Compared to the brown mustard seeds, the white mustard seeds have a mild flavour.

The leaves, seeds and flowers of both the white and brown mustard are edible.

Parts used

Leaves, flowers, seeds.


In traditional folk medicine, mustards have been used in the form of a diuretic, stimulant, purgative and also to cure an assortment of diseases, counting neuralgia and peritonitis.

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Even in contemporary times, mustards are employed in mustard plasters to heal arthritis, rheumatism, aching back, chest congestion and aching muscles. To prepare a mustard plaster you need to mix flour and powdered mustard in equal amounts and spread it in the form of a paste over a twice-folded piece of soft cloth. It is important to apply the mustard plaster on the affected areas for no more than 15 minutes or it may burn the skin and damage the nerve.

In Chinese herbal medication, an infusion is prepared from the mustard leaves and it is employed to cure inflammations of the bladder as well as to stop bleeding. The seeds of brown mustard are used to heal abscesses, colds, bronchitis, toothache, rheumatism, stomach disorders and even ulcers.

The mustard seed is considered to be a warming tonic herb having antibiotic actions. Brown mustard is considered to be aperitif, anodyne (a medication that alleviates pain), emetic, diuretic, stimulant and rubefacient and is a traditional medication for treating foot ache, arthritis, lumbago as well as rheumatism. In China, the mustard seed is employed in treating tumours. People in Korea use the mustard seeds in treating colds, abscesses, and rheumatism, lumbago and stomach problems. In Africa, the brown mustard root is employed in the form of a galactagogue (any medication that promotes the secretion of milk).

Taking mustard internally may pass on a body smell that repels mosquitoes. In addition, mustard oil is employed in treating skin eruptions as well as ulcers. Mustard is thought to be a tonic and aperient and the volatile oil enclosed by mustard seeds is employed in the form of a counter-irritant and a tonic. In Java, the mustard plants are used in the form of an anti-syphilitic emmenagogue. The leaves of this herb are applied to the forehead and are believed to ease headache.

Culinary uses

Besides therapeutic utilities, mustards also have a wide variety of culinary uses. Mustard leaves are used to add flavour and spice to salads and stir-fry dishes. Even the mustard flowers are edible and you may cook fresh mustard flowers for about three minutes in salted boiling water. Subsequently, drain the liquid and allow the flowers to stand a couple of minutes. Serve the boiled flowers with butter. You may also use mustard flowers to prepare a delicious edible garnish.

You may add whole seeds of mustard in pickles, curries, relishes, sauces as well as to add essence to pot roasts and additional meats, for instance rabbit, lamb and pork. In addition, mustard seeds are a must in sauerkraut and while cooking potently flavoured vegetables, for instance cabbage.

Pulverize the seeds to form the base of ready-made mustard or mustard paste. You may use a food processor or a mortar and pestle or put the seeds between two sheets of paper and pulverize them using a bottle. Pounded mustard seeds keep for an indefinite period.

In fact, mustard seeds are extensively and commercially used in preparing powdered mustard, pickling spice blends and also in prepared mustards that vary from the omnipresent vivid yellow seasoning, which is indispensible for the fast-food industry to the deliciously assorted herb-flavoured and wine-flavoured mustards much-loved by gastronomes.

Mustard leaves possess a spicy essence that may vary from mild to hot - in fact, mustard leaves are among the most exceedingly valued cooked vegetables in the Orient. In addition, mustard leaves may also be consumed raw - they need to be shredded delicately to be an extremely suitable addition to mixed salads. It may be noted here that the leaves yield a protein that blends extremely well with banana pulp and is suitably accustomed in the form of a filling for pies.

The flowers as well as the tender flowering stems of mustard too may be consumed raw or cooked. They are sweet to taste and juicy. In addition, edible partly drying oil is also derived from the mustard seeds, which enclose about 25 per cent to 30 per cent oil. The seeds are also used in the form of a mustard seasoning. In effect, it is the basis for 'brown mustard' - prepared mustard which has a comparatively mild flavour than those of the other species of mustard.

Mustard develops spiciness when the grounded seed is added to cold water - in this situation, an enzyme called myrosin works on a glycoside called sinigrin to turn out a sulphur amalgam. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes for this reaction to take place. On the other hand, when you mix ground mustard seeds with hot water, vinegar or add salt to it, the action of the enzyme is inhibited and the reaction results in a mildly bitter flavoured mustard. Black mustard is derived from the species called Brassica nigra, while white mustard is obtained from the species Sinapis alba. The seeds of mustard are usually heated on oil with a view to wipe out their bitterness/ sharpness and provide them with a nut-like essence. The roots of some mustard species are also edible, while the sprouted seeds may be included in salads.

Habitat and cultivation

Properly aerated loamy soils that are not inclined to crusting are best suited for the growth of mustards. The advisable pH range for growing mustard is between 4.3 and 8.3.

Mustard plants thrive best in full sunlight, but also have a preference for some shade. This plant is averse to extremely hot weather conditions. Mustard plants have the ability to endure very high rainfall and, while they are reasonably deep rooted, they are unable to resist drought. Brown mustard is cultivated extensively for its edible seeds that are employed to prepare an essence called 'brown mustard'. This condiment possesses just 70 per cent of the sharpness of the black mustard (Brassica nigra), however, it is possible to harvest the crop mechanically and, hence, it is so commercially viable. This particular species has been cultivated in the Orient for several centuries and an assortment of types has been developed that have edible leaves, seeds, roots and stems.

Mustard is propagated by its seeds that ought to be sown outdoors in the early part of spring. Sowing the seeds early enough lowers the peril of damage to the mature seed pods from a fall frost. The seeds need to be sown to a depth of 6 mm (one fourth inch). Generally, the seedlings emerge in four to five days from the day of sowing. Mustard seedling ought to be grown at a space of about 15 cm or 6 inches.

When you are growing mustard, it is essential to keep the ground without weeds, particularly when the seedlings are small. When the young plants are established, they start growing briskly, overcoming the weeds.

The white and brown mustards, both varieties are vulnerable to a variety of diseases caused by fungi and also to insects, especially the flea beetles. In order to keep off pests, you are advised not to grow mustard or cole crops at the same location over more than a few years. In addition, mustard should also not be grown close to beets, as they are host of the sugar beet nematode.

You may generate mustard and cress seeds collectively in flats and the seedlings that are harvested for mustard and cress sprouts are used in salads and sandwiches. Provided you sow the mustard seeds three to four days following the sowing of cress, both would be ready for harvesting at around the same time.

Side effects and cautions

Use of brown mustard may result in a number of side effects. For instance, mustard plasters generate considerable heat, which may burn the skin. Therefore, it is advisable that you remove mustard plasters 15 minutes after application. In addition, extended application of mustard plaster may cause burns to the skin as well as damage the nerves. Emissions from a mustard plaster may lead to sneezing, coughing, and irritation of the eyes and also cause asthmatic attacks. Never apply mustard plaster to children who are below the age of six years or to people who are enduring kidney problems.

Mustards may probably cause allergic reactions in children as well as teenagers.

Collection and harvesting

You may collect mustard leaves for using them fresh when they are young and soft and not distastefully too spicy in flavour. If required, you may also pick the flowers along with the leaves. The harvesting of seed pods may begin immediately when the plants drop their seeds.

Collect the stalks of brown mustard and scatter them on a cotton or plastic sheet to dry out, possibly in the sun. Thrash the dried up stalks with a broom or a basketball bat. Subsequently, sort the mixture of the seeds, broken pods and stalks by sieving them slowly through your fingers. Keep your hand as high as possible while winnowing on top of a bucket, allowing enough space between your fingers and the bucket in such a manner that the breeze (alternately an electric fan) can disperse the chaff. Continue the sifting process till such time when the seeds are dirt free. Store the seeds in a sealed container.


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