White or yellow, black, and brown are the three basic types of mustard plants cultivated across the globe. These plants are cultivated for vegetable, oil, seed, condiment, green manure, and even for fodder purposes.
Mustard plants correspond to various plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis, and are known to reach maturity very fast. These plants are very beneficial, as almost every part of the plant is useful to man.
The leaves (mustard greens) and tender stems can be boiled and consumed as vegetables, while the tiny mustard seeds can be used as spice. Moreover, the seeds can also be used to prepare mustard condiments, mustard oil, etc.
Types of Mustard Plants
Mustard plants can be divided into three types: white (or yellow), black, or brown. All these types have the same properties, and vary only in their strengths; white or yellow being the strongest, black next, and then brown. Let us learn more about these mustard plant varieties.
White Mustard (Sinapis alba)
The scientific classification of white mustard is as follows:
Kingdom: Plantae Order: Brassicales Family: Brassicaceae Genus: Sinapis Species:S. alba
White mustard or Sinapis alba is an annual plant that is grown for its mustard seeds. It is also valued for the green manure and fodder crop it makes.
This crop is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, however, today it grows wild in the Middle East, Mediterranean, Europe, North Africa, and has also spread to different parts of the world by long cultivation.
This plant blooms between the months of February and March, and exhibits formation of pretty yellow flowers, which conduce to the formation of hairy pods. Each of these pods contain about half a dozen seeds, which are harvested before the pods ripen and burst.
White mustard seeds are hard round seeds (1-1.5 millimeter in diameter), with their color ranging from beige to yellow to light brown. They can be added to a plethora of dishes, and when ground and mixed with other ingredients, they make lovely condiments.
Their pungent flavor can be attributed to the sinalbin (a glucosinolate) content in them. White mustard contains fewer volatile oils, which are responsible for its milder flavor.
Brown mustard (Brassica juncea)
The scientific classification of brown mustard is as follows:
Brown mustard or Brassica juncea is also known as the Indian mustard, leaf mustard, or even mustard greens. It originated from the foothills of the Himalayas and is grown commercially today in Canada, UK, US, and Denmark.
The sub-varieties of this species include Southern Giant Curled Mustard, which bears semblance to a headless cabbage (like kale), but with a horseradish-mustard flavor.
This plant is cultivated by farmers for green manure, whereby, it acts as mulch and prevents weeds from growing between crops. If grown for green manure, once these plants have grown sufficiently, they are cut down from the base and left to wither away. Their natural disintegration into the soil makes them a suitable mulch for the next crop being grown.
Moreover, in hazardous waste sites, brown mustard plant is used to discard heavy metals from the soil. This plant has a high tolerance level for these substances and stores heavy metal in its cells. The plants are then harvested and disposed off appropriately.
Black mustard (Brassica nigra)
The scientific classification of black mustard is as follows:
Kingdom: Plantae Order: Brassicales Family: Brassicaceae Genus: Brassica Species:B. nigra
The black mustard plant is believed to be native to the southern Mediterranean region of Europe. This plant is grown in Chile, US, Argentina, and some European countries. However, Canada is the leading mustard producer in the international market, producing about 90% of the world's mustard seeds.
Brassica nigra is cultivated as a vegetable in Ethiopia, where its leaves and stems are cooked and consumed. This plant can grow to a height of 2-8 feet, and develops small yellow flowers. Moreover, the leaves of this plant are covered in small hair. These leaves wilt during the day, however, recover at night.
The seeds of this mustard plant variety are hard and vary in color from dark brown to black. They have no aroma, however, are quite flavorful and are commonly used in Indian cuisine. These seeds contain a substantial amount of fatty oil, which is extracted and used in Indian cooking.
Mustard plants are cultivated and loved for their mustard greens, cooking oil, seeds, and condiments. So, the next time you apply mustard sauce on your hot dog, don't forget to remember these lovely plants that produce them!