Mustard seed: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about the mustard plant

Sinapis alba
A member of the Brassicaceae family, the yellow flowers of the plant produce hairy seed pods, with each pod containing roughly a half dozen seeds. These seeds are harvested just prior to the pods becoming ripe and bursting. White mustard seeds are hard round seeds, usually around 1 to 1.5 millimeters in diameter, with a color ranging from beige or yellow to light brown.

Brassica nigra
A member of the Brassicaceae family, the plant itself can grow from two to eight feet tall, with racemes of small yellow flowers. These flowers are usually up to 1/3" across, with four petals each. The leaves are covered in small hairs; they can wilt on hot days, but recover at night.

Despite their similar common names, black mustard and white mustard are not closely related. White mustard has fewer volatile oils and the flavor is considered to be milder than that produced by black mustard seeds.

common names & nomenclature
The specific names for each are from the Latin and are in reference to seed colors; alba meaning "white", nigra meaning "black".

Sinapis alba also known as:
white mustard, brassica alba, brassica hirta

Brassica nigra also known as:
black mustard, Sinapis nigra

Mustard Seed, the pickling spice and stain fighter
Mustard seed: Where in the World
habitat and range for mustard

Sinapis alba is now widespread worldwide, although it probably originated in the Mediterranean region.

Brassica nigra is believed to be native to the southern Mediterranean region of Europe and possibly South Asia where it has been cultivated for thousands of years.

Mustard seed: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting mustard

Sinapis alba prefers temperate climates with some humidity. It is grown both in the garden and commercially, and can withstand high temperatures, but very hot days during flowering and ripening may reduce seed quality.

Brassica nigra is often grown in the temperate zone though it is mainly suited to tropical areas, and grown chiefly as a rainfed crop in areas of low or moderate rainfall.

Mustard plants require high nutrient soils with a high level of nitrogen, but may be grown on a wide range of soils from light to heavy, growing best on relatively heavy sandy loamy soils, not suited to very wet soils.

Sow seeds directly in the garden from early spring to late summer. Germination takes place in less than a week.

Mustard seeds are harvested just prior to the pods becoming ripe and bursting.

Store dried seeds (whole or powdered) in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.