Mustard is available in 3 main forms – white, brown and black. White mustard is grown in many temperate climates including in Europe and North America. Brown mustard is native to India, black to southern Europe and parts of Asia.
Mustard’s name derives from its use as a condiment; its ground seeds were mixed with grape must. Mustard was widely used as a flavouring in medieval Europe, before other spices and flavourings were available following which it declined in popularity. Mustard is available as whole seeds or in powdered form. Mustard powder is bland when dry; its gets its heat as a result of a chemical reaction when mixed with cold water. White mustard is the least pungent, brown more so and black the most fiery. Mustard seeds have no aroma.
There is a large array of mustard blends on the market from sharp English (ground white seeds and turmeric) to mild American (ground white seeds, sugar, vinegar and turmeric), to wholegrain to Dijon (ground brown mustard seeds, wine, salt and spices) etc. Mustard is widely used as a condiment and ingredient in dressings and sauces. Indian cuisine uses whole seeds, ground seeds and mustard oil.
Medicinally, mustard is used as an emetic, and as a rubefacient that draws blood to the surface of the skin for the treatment of snake bites, scorpion stings and bruises. In traditional medicine mustard plasters are used to treat arthritis and rheumatism.