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Mustard Seeds

A Definition
Derived from the many varieties of mustard plants, mustard seeds are very small seeds, about 2 mm in diameter, and seen in colors ranging from yellowish white to black. They are one of the most important ingredients used in many regional cuisines across the world, especially in the Indian sub-continent. Mustard seeds can be used either in whole form or in powdered form. Although there exist around forty different types of mustard plants, the mustard seeds are primarily derived from three main types of mustard plants. These three plants are black mustard plant, also known as Brassica Nigra; brown Indian mustard, also known as Brassica juncea; and white or yellow mustard also called Brassica Hirta/Sinapis Alba.

 

Origin of Mustard Seeds
Although the exact origin of mustard seeds is relatively unknown, it is believed that these seeds must have been used in the form of spices by the French during 800 AD. So popular were these seeds, that the Spanish explorers took them while on voyage throughout the entire 1400s. The mustard seeds find their place in many ancient Sanskrit writings, written around 5000 year ago. In the New Testament, the grain of a mustard seed has been compared with the kingdom of heaven. The contemporary mustard condiments were originally developed by the Ancient Romans using these mustard seeds. Mustard seeds were used in medicines by many physicians, including Hippocrates, the father of medicine.

 

Types of Mustard Seeds
There are three main varieties of mustard seeds. These are:

  • Black Mustard: Also known as brassica nigra, nigra being the Latin word for black. These seeds have a very strong and distinct flavor, thus making them very popular in Indian and Southeast Asian dishes
  • Brown Mustard: This variety is also known as brassica juncea. The term 'juncea' means rush-like. The brown mustard seeds first originated in the Himalayas. They are used as garnish but before that they are toasted or fried a little in oil
  • White Mustard: They are known as Sinapis Alba/B. Hirta alba meaning white. The seeds are light tanned, and slowly end up as bright yellow mustard. These are mainly used in picklings and marinades
 

Health Benefits of Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds are known to be powerful anti-microbial agents since they can destroy all the food borne pathogens quite effectively. Isothiocyanates, a compound found in mustard seeds, has been found to stop the growth of cancer cells. Mustard seeds also contain high amounts of selenium, a nutrient that helps in arresting the occurrence of asthma.

Magnesium, another nutrient found in mustard seeds, helps in lowering blood pressure as well as normalizing the sleep pattern in women coping with menopause. Apart from this, they help in reducing

migraine attacks, and preventing heart attacks in patients. Mustard seeds are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids, apart from iron, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, protein, niacin and dietary fiber.
 

Recipe using Mustard Seeds
One of the most popular recipe used in making mustard seeds is the ginger & yogurt chutney. It not only tastes great, but also aids in proper digestion. The ingredients required for making the ginger & yogurt chutney are:

  • ½ cup ginger (finely grated)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Salt as per taste
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • Few green chillies
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 dried red chili pepper (halved)
  • Some curry leaves.

Methodology
Put ginger, green chillies, salt and two spoons of water in blender and grind them to make a thick and smooth puree. Add yogurt in the puree and stir it well. Now add some oil in a pan and heat it. Add mustard seeds in the heated oil. After some time, as the seeds start spluttering, add the halved red chili pepper and curry leaves. Remove them from the gas and pour them over the puree and stir well.