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Traditional American cookery found two uses for mustard. The seed of the black mustard (Brassica nigri—sometimes called Brown Mustard) formed the basis of the piquant condiment, ‘prepared mustard’; cooks boiled its leaves for greens. White mustard (Brassica alba) could be simmered for greens and eaten fresh for salad. Its seed, when expressed, served as an excellent lamp oil. When consumed raw, “[i]t must be used when the seed-leaf is just expanded, for if it gets into the rough leaf I is fit for nothing but greens.”

When gardeners grew White Mustard primarily for salad, they sowed seed anytime during the warm months, since they harvested the sprouts almost immediately. Annual plants, both White and Black mustard seed were broadcast in the famous Biblical method, though market gardeners tended to deposit seeds in drills from a foot (White) to a foot and a half (Black) apart. Black mustard has a tall habit (i.e. the ‘Mustard Tree’ of the Bible), the White, a rather modest stature. The plants favored loam, but because of the tendency of Mustard roots to break up the root mats of grasslands, farmers converting grazing lands to fields for crops, would plant several successive crops of Mustard. There were certain liabilities to Making mustard a regular crop on one’s land. It used a great deal of the soil’s nutriment, without fixing much of benefit into it. But more troublesome was the hardy viability of the seed. Any seed buried five or more inches in the soil, if plowed up near the surface will sprout regardless how many years it has lain dormant. So mustard, like Jerusalmen Artichoke and red weed rice, have the capacity to take over fields. In the south farmers used mustard as a winter cover, sowing late in the autumn and harvesting the plant for greens or seed in the late winter. Wheat farmers throughout the nation used Mustard plants that had not yeat set seed as a green manure, plowing the plant material in prior to setting seed for the grain.

When growing Black Mustard for seed, a harvesting protocol had to be followed. “When the pods on the top turn to a deep brown approaching purple, and those low on the stem are turning to a light brown, it may be cut, and should be tied into sheaves, or laid in reaps if intended to be thrashed immediately : tiering into sheaves, and " pieing," is the best practice. The pieing is one of the most difficult operations in stacking: every sheaf must be so laid that the lower ends of the outer sheaves droop downwards, so as to shoot off the rains, and prevent damage from wet; the form is invariably round, and when a sufficient height is attained, it is finished with a high, conical, or "sugar-loaf" roof, topped by some long sedge or similar covering. Great care is requisite in leading to the pie or stack. In mustard-growing countries it is a kind of business to individuals who keep a stock of "mustard cloths," sleighs, sieves, &c, which they let out for stacking and thrashing; but common farm-carts, fitted with cloths or coarse sheets, will do very well: all that is required is to prevent loss from the shelling seed while loading and teaming. It is usual to thrash with the flail in the field. The sheaves are generally very long and dry, and a stroke or two will beat out most of the seed. Dressing the seed is a peculiar task, and requires an experienced hand; the mustard sieve and a steady wind being essential to clean and correct dressing. Mustard seed will not keep well in granary: the best way to keep it is in the pie.”

The manufacture of table mustard became commercialized early in the nineteenth century, with factories in England and the United States. Tumeric was added to give an intense yellow color. In the 1810s the adulteration of prepared mustard—with poisonous coloring agents such as potassium dinitronaphthalate or grown cocoanut shell—became a matter of intense public comment, reinforcing the home manufacture of the condiment from home-grown or purchased seed. One reputable English manufacturer founded in 1814—Coleman’s of Norwich—provided seed, powder and prepared mustard to American markets establishing its brand items as key preparations found in groceries. It used White Mustard seed for its products. Mustard seed became a favorite pickling ingredient as well, requisite for making Chow-chow particularly.

In traditional pharmacology mustard oil—pressed from the seed—and mustard paste—combining water with the flour of ground mustard seed—operated as favorite topical treatments for skin disorders. The mustard plaster remained a feature of the household medical cabinet well into the twentieth century.

White Mustard    History

Black Mustard    History

plants three to seven feet tall with hairy leaves that bear pins at the tips of the leaf lobes.

Japanese Mustard (Brassica japonica—also called California Pepper Grass)    History

an introduction of 1890 in market product. Crisped or frilled leaves, low habit.

Chinese Mustard (Brassica juncea)     History

Introduced into cultivation in the 1890s, tall leaves with a curl to them. Prolific growth.

Ostrich Plume    History

quick growing curled leaf form of White Mustard

Louisiana Large Leaved Curled    History

a distinctly Louisiana product, quite different from the European kind. The seed is black, and is raised in Louisiana, and the plant is being more extensively cultivated every year. The large leaves are cooked exactly as Spinach.

Mustard Salad (Salads and Sauces 1884)    History

The young seed-leaves of the mustard-plant mixed with young beet-tops or dandelions make a very good spring salad. Serve with a plain salad-dressing. Bacon-dressing is very often served with this salad. P. 165.

Mustard Greens (E. F. Haskell The Housekeeper’s Encyclopedia 1861)    History

Mustard, dock, and dandelion, when very young, all make excellent greens, boiled with a ham bone. P. 124.

Mustard Greens (Good Housekeeping Magazine 1910)    History

Wash the mustard leaves thoroughly, cut them in shreds or run them through a food chopper and put them over the fire, dripping wet, in a tightly covered saucepan. If necessary, add water very judiciously, in small quantities, so there will be no liquid on the greens when they are done. Season with salt and cayenne pepper, and stir in one tablespoonful of corn meal, sprinkling it carefully and stirring hard so it will not form lumps. Let the greens cook until both they and the meal are thoroughly done. P. 546.

Prepared Table Mustard #1 (The Scientific American Cyclopedia 1910)    History

Stir gradually 1 pt. of good white wine into 8 oz. of ground mustard seed and a pinch of pulverized cloves, and let the whole boil over a moderate coal fire. Then add a small lump of white sugar, and let the mixture boil up once more. P. 763

Prepared Table Mustard #2 (The Scientific American Cyclopedia 1910)    History

Pour % pt. of boiling white vinegar over 8 oz. of ground mustard seed, in an earthen pot, stir the mixture thoroughly, then add some cold vinegar, and let the pot stand overnight in a warm place. The next morning add % lb. of sugar, % dr. of pulverized cinnamon, % dr. of pulverized cloves, 1% dr. of Jamaica pepper, some cardamom, nutmeg, half the rind of a lemon, and the necessary quantity of vinegar. The mustard is now ready, and is kept in pots tied up with bladder.

Prepared Table Mustard #3 (The Scientific American Cyclopedia 1910)    History

Mix 8 lb. of ground mustard seed with IY2 pt. of good cold vinegar, heat the mixture over a moderate fire for 1 hour, add 1 dr. of ground Jamaica pepper, and when cold keep it in well closed jars.

Very Fine Table Mustard (The Scientific American Cyclopedia 1910)    History

Digest 1% 02. of fresh tarragon leaves, 2 bay leaves, 1 lemon (juice and rind), V* dr. each of cloves and cinnamon, % dr. of black pepper, % oz. of dill, ana 1 onion in % gal. of good vinegar. It is best to use a steam apparatus for the purpose. Then strain the fluid into a porcelain vessel, and while it is yet warm, mix with it 1 lb. of ground black mustard seed, a like quantity of white mustard,1 lb. of sugar, and 3% oz. of common salt. Let the whole digest, stirring frequently, until the mustard has lost some of its sharpness by the evaporation of the ethereal oil, and then dilute, according to taste, with more or less vinegar.