Mythili’s Mistress of Spices ~ Mustard Seed

Very talented Mythili of Vindhu kindly invited me to participate in her Mistress of Spices event. I hesitated at first, because I would not make the deadline, but once I had the idea in my head, and knew which spice I wanted to learn about, it rather took over… mustard seed. Then I saw RP of My Workshop did a lovely post about saffron after June 4 … so I didn’t feel so bad… hope you don’t mind if I am late, Mythili!


Lovely Mustard Seed


The following is a direct copy and paste (and so is credited as such) from Global Garden

Name: Mustard (Black) Brassica nigra
Description: Black Mustard is an annual herb that can grow up to 2m tall. The lower leaves are large and hairy and the younger leaves are softer and smoother. Bright yellow four-petalled flowers are borne in summer and are followed by pods which contain the dark reddish brown or black mustard seeds.

Origin: Europe, North Africa and Asia

Cultivation: Black Mustard grows very readily from seed sprinkled where the plants are to grow. The plants need a sunny, well-drained location. As a member of the Brassica genus, the plant attracts cabbage white butterflies and their caterpillars. The plant has the capacity to become a weed as it has done elsewhere. To prevent self-seeding and to ensure that the mustard seeds are not lost, pods should be harvested as soon as they start to colour and kept in paper or cloth bags until they dry out and split open.

Uses: Young leaves can add a peppery tang to green salads. The seeds can be crushed and used to flavour pickles, curries and other meat and vegetable dishes. Southern Indian cuisine makes use of roasted or popped mustard seed which has a nutty flavour. Black mustard is the favoured ingredient in French Mustard. The seed can also be sprouted and the sprouts used as a spicy and nutritious addition to salads and sandwiches. The seed has long been used for medicinal purposes. Mustard plasters and poultices were used in different cultures for the relief of inflammation and chest complaints, but this was not without its risks as the mustard oil that the plant contains is highly volatile and can easily cause skin to blister.


More basic information is found here at Spice Pages.


A few of my own thoughts on mustard seeds…

Over the past few months that I’ve been devouring new Indian dishes, I have discovered mustard belongs in everything from pickle to podi to popu. It’s essential, in fact, to many recipes that call for a tempering (tadka, popu, my own translation would be ‘extra splash of spice’). When I first began to cook authentic Indian, I sometimes found my tadka tasted ‘burned’. Because the mustard seeds pop and hiss about in the pan, I assumed I was cooking them at too high temperature. I experimented with putting cumin in first, mustard after, and found to my surprise it was the cumin getting a little too dark that caused that burned taste. Lesson relearned ~ never assume.

Mustard seed is the pleasing little pop in your teeth in that spoonful of dal. The appealing dark spots of color interspersed with the yellow of turmeric or the orangey-red of chili powder in your vegetable fry or curry ~ that’s mustard. It is also what spilled out all over everywhere one day when I opened a rather large package from Indian grocery ~ not easy to round up from counter and floor!

Together with cumin, mustard’s aroma is what reminds me I am cooking real food, not some doctored-up-for-western-palate restaurant dish. In all the Indian dishes I’ve had in a restaurant, I have never once seen a mustard seed or curry leaf… and the cumin only shows up in rice.

Here’s to Mustard, and thank you Mythili, for inviting me. πŸ™‚


  1. L.G said

    Seriously, If you really like Indian food, never eat at an indian restuarant.

  2. Mythili said

    That is alright if you missed the deadline. The good thing is participated and did a wicked job at that. That is a nice post about mustard seeds – the quintessential ingredient of our everyday tadka.

  3. […] […]

  4. shankari said

    Very well written Linda!

  5. Vaishali said

    I enjoyed your own thoughts on mustard seeds the most.
    And yeah, spilling mustard seeds is not a pardonable crime. πŸ˜‰

  6. Hi LG, thanks for visiting. Thanks to the magic of great internet blogs like yours, and recipes I am learning from them, I don’t have to eat in restaurants any more πŸ™‚

    Mythili, thank you for including me in this fun and informative event! I am on my way to read your round-up now ~ should be a treat!

    Shankari, hi and thank you! I wish you luck with your move and your new home.

    Vaishali, thank you and welcome to my humble blog-home ~ I am still finding stray mustard seeds in corners… πŸ˜‰

  7. Aparna said

    Hi Linda,

    Your thouhts about mustard seeds are good one. ‘stone age’ people say.. πŸ™‚ if you spill mustard on the ground, you will have a tiff with your partner.. my hubby believes it to certain extent… so i will make sure to have some argument.. when i spill this πŸ™‚
    Thats nicely written about mustard..

  8. Nav said


    Nice write up there. Really like the way you have seperated the information you researched on the internet and your own thought. I came to your blog through your comment on my blog. Just wanted to share my 2 cents on mustard..

    Mustard is also used to make mustard oil which is predominantly used in some parts of Northern India, mainly in cooking. It is also known to be very effective to heal dry skin, so I have seen people applying it directly on their skin and I can vouch for it. Although there are certain proven theories that mustard oil could be noxious. Here is a useful link from wiki


  9. An informative post! I am shocked to know that you dont find mustard in food from Indian restaurants!!1

  10. vineela said

    Hi LINDA,
    thank s for visiting.Mustard is very much neccessary in kitchen.
    Nice Entry.

  11. Hi Linda, what informative write up..and i agree with L.G if u like indian food,never have them in indian resturant atleast not out of india..One information that i have on mustard that was told to us by our grandma , is that mustard oil helps to shed of the hairs on the body..So they apply them to the kids..

  12. Hi Aparna, great story! Thanks for sharing that πŸ™‚

    Nav, hello and thanks for visiting. I didn’t even think to include mustard oil, great info!

    Hi Sumitha, at least I have never seen any when I’ve eaten there. Not even in dishes called ‘tadka dal’. Thanks for visiting.

    Vineela, thank you ~ enjoyed your pepper post πŸ™‚

    Hi Sudha, thank you for even more mustard oil information ~ I’ll have to do more reading about that.

  13. Puspha said

    Very informative. Thank u.

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