When most people in the United States think about mustard the image of a spicy yellow or brown condiment comes to mind. Especially in the urban areas. However, in the rural areas wild mustard is either a salad or a cooked green.
A little research shows that there’s almost as many mustards as there are opinions in the world. For the purpose of Forage Friday we’re going to lump them all together under the umbrella of “wild mustard”. Even Peterson’s Field Guide uses the generic “Brassica Spp”.
The seeds can be used to make a spice just like the domestic varieties but as with any wild edible plant the flavor might not be what we’re used to.
The young seed pods can be pickled or tossed fresh into a salad.
The leaves can be a little bitter but can be eaten raw and that is my current experience since I have mostly focused on salad greens. I recently learned that the flower heads can be eaten like broccoli. That shouldn’t have surprised me because they are the family of plants. ( Which also includes cabbage BTW.)
The bright yellow flowers are always a welcomed sight in the spring when I spot them standing proudly near the roads. You might think that the mustard that you buy for your hot dogs is yellow because the mustard seed itself is yellow but it’s not so. Yellow mustard is yellow because it contains turmeric powder. Natural mustard seeds are grayish. It’s complicated process and it’s unlikely that you find them in a high enough quantity to make it worth the effort but a rich edible oil can be processed from the mustard seed. The process is said to leave behind a high protein powder which is also edible.
With all of the good things that comes from this humble little plant it makes me wonder why it’s classified as a weed? The only negative thing I can find online is that when dairy cows eat it the flavor of the milk is somewhat off making the milk unprofitable.
As I try write my closing line tonight I can’t help think about all the efforts that go into feeding the hungry people of the world. We pour money into government programs and charitable organizations that are intended to be resource for families who are struggling. And yet every day chemicals are sprayed to prevent the growth of food producing plants that thrive worldwide, like the mustard plant. It’s even been found growing near the earth’s magnetic pole. Could it be that the reason why people go hungry is because we’ve taken the wrong approach with food production? Perhaps instead of suppressing vigorous plants like mustard we should find ways to support them and turn our world back into a garden.
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