How to Grow Mustard - FineGardening (2023)

Mustard is an ancient plant that’s full of appeal for contemporary gardeners. The plants are easy to grow and produce seed in as few as 60 days. The greens are edible, the flowers attractive, and if the seeds are allowed to mature on the plant, they will self-sow and still provide plenty for mustard making. Is making your own mustard worth the effort? Considering that a small jar of good Dijon can cost up to $6, it is indeed. About a dollar’s worth of seed will produce a pantry shelf full of fine and fancy mustards and more greens than you can shake a salad spinner at.

How to Grow Mustard - FineGardening (1)
Mustard is a tiny seed with a lot of spunk. It will grow just about anywhere, is rarely bothered by pests, and is prolific to boot.

Mustard in all its forms—shoots, leaves, flowers, whole seed, powdered, or prepared—is a flavorful, low-fat way to punch up any savory food. I’ve used the whole seed in pickling and cooking, tossed the tender greens in fresh salads (garnished with mustard flowers, of course), stewed mature leaves as a southern-style side dish, and crushed spicy seed to make a variety of pungent mustards.

If you’ve ever traveled to California’s wine country in early spring, you may have seen the vineyards awash in yellow flowers. Those are mustard plants, the winemaker’s friend. Many vineyard owners plant mustard deliberately as a cover crop or let field mustard (Brassica kaber) run rampant. When plowed back into the soil, the plants act as a green manure and release nitrogen. Mustard also repels some insects (the seeds are that hot) and attracts syrphid flies, beneficial predators that attack vine-chewing insects.

(Video) Grow Mustard All Year [Gardening Allotment UK] [Grow Vegetables At Home ]

Mustard seed contains no cholesterol, only trace amounts of vegetable fat, and about 25 percent protein. Leaf mustard contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamin B. The calories are negligible in most basic prepared mustards, so you can feel free to indulge.

Today, mustard is second in demand to pepper among spices in the United States. Historical records indicate the use of mustard as far back as 4,000 b.c.e., and it’s believed prehistoric man chewed mustard seeds with his meat (probably to disguise decay). From about 2,000 b.c.e. on, ancient civilizations used it as an oil, a spice, and a medicinal plant. It was introduced into western and northern Europe in the early Middle Ages.

Over the years, mustard has been imbued with curative powers. It’s been called an appetite stimulant, a digestive aid, and a decongestant. Because mustard increases blood circulation, it’s often used in plaster form to treat inflammation. Folklore has it you can even sprinkle mustard powder in your socks to prevent frostbite.

(Video) Growing Mustard Greens from Seeds (with actual results)

All mustards come from the Cruciferae, a family that includes broccoli and cabbage. Brassica nigra, B. alba, and B. juncea produce black, white (really a yellowish-tan), and brown seeds, respectively. The black seeds of B. nigra are used for moderately spicy mustards. French cooks use them to make Dijon-style mustard—it can be called true Dijon mustard only if it is certified to come from that city, which has the exclusive right to produce it. In West Indian dishes, black seeds are fried until they pop. The black variety produces less-desirable greens, and is really intended to be grown for seed.

White seeds—B. alba—are the primary ingredient in traditional ball-park mustard, and it’s the most common and the mildest of the three. The white seeds also have the strongest preserving power and are therefore the kitchen gardener’s choice for pickles, relishes, and chutneys. White mustards are not typically grown for their greens.
Brown mustard, the hottest of all, is used for curries and Chinese hot mustards, and frequently for Dijon-type mustards. If you’re growing mustard for the greens, choose B. juncea or an Oriental variety like ‘Giant Red’.

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Mustard is easy to grow
Mustard will grow well in most soils, but will produce the most seed in rich, well-drained, well-prepared soil with a pH of no less than 6.0. It will thrive if given constant moisture. It likes cool weather; a light frost can even improve the flavor. Black mustard is the least fussy.

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How to Grow Mustard - FineGardening (2)
The black mustard plant (Brassica nigra), shown with a mature seed pod (top right), white mustard seeds, and black mustard seeds.

For best results, add 10 to 15 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 500 square feet, or the organic equivalent. Thoroughly work the amendments into the top 2 to 3 inches of soil just prior to seeding.

In the springtime, sow the seed in drills about 1⁄8 inch deep and 15 inches apart, as the last frost deadline nears. If you live in the South, you can also seed in September or October for harvest in the fall and winter. Once the plants are up, thin to 9 or 10 inches apart, and then you can almost ignore them. If you’re interested in harvesting a lot of seed, however, feed the plants regularly.

Mustard is blissfully free of insect and disease problems, and larger critters don’t seem to like it much either. The hotter and drier the weather, though, the faster the plants go to seed—30 to 60 days, depending on the variety and the climate.

(Video) Harvesting mustard seeds

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Cutting the mustard
Pick B. juncea leaves for salad when they’re small, young, and tender, or use the larger leaves for sautéing or stewing. Add young leaves to stir-fries and salads. Mustard greens add a nice, sharp flavor contrast to mild, buttery lettuces and therefore are often one of the plants found in mesclun mixes.

Mustard in the kitchen:

How to Grind Mustard Seeds and Make Mustard
Mustard recipes:

Dijon Mustard
Chinese Hot Mustard Sauce
Grainy Orange-Honey-Tarragon Mustard

Larger mustard leaves need to be cooked. Stew them with bacon or a ham hock, southern-style, or shred and sauté them with other greens to make a bed for grilled fish and meats. You can also add mustard greens to long-cooking soups and stews. Flowers can be used as an edible garnish.

Watch out if you let the pods get too ripe, or your garden could become overrun with mustard plants, which may be exactly what you want. If you want to harvest seeds, however, pick the pods just after they change from green to brown, before they are entirely ripe; otherwise they will shatter and the fine seed will blow into every corner of your garden.

(Video) How To Save Mustard Green Seeds

Pods should be air-dried in a warm place for about two weeks. Spread them out on clean muslin, an old sheet, or a fine screen. Once dry, gently crush the pods to remove the seeds and hulls.

Mustard, the greatest among herbs

Mustard is an ordinary-looking little seed with an impressive ability to grow into a mighty plant that’s highly prolific. Its reputation as both a seed with great promise and great piquancy is supported by numerous passages found everywhere from the Bible to Shakespeare.

How could this small nothing-of-a-seed attract grandiose praise and literary attention? Through tenacity and vigor, no doubt. See the passage below from the Book of Matthew for an example of these traits. After reading the passage, you might question whether mustard could ever attain the stature suggested. Yes, it is possible that Brassica hirta and B. nigra grew into trees in the Mediterranean climate.

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all seeds. But when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
—Matthew 13:31-32

by LeAnn Zotta
February 1997
from issue #19

FAQs

How do you grow mustard seeds step by step? ›

Mustard seed needs both well-draining soil and plenty of nutrition. Sow them a half-inch deep and an inch apart, in rows six to eight inches apart. Firm the soil lightly on top and keep them moist until they germinate.

How do you grow mustard plants? ›

Plant mustard greens during the cool temperatures of spring and fall. These tasty greens grow well in raised beds, containers, and in-ground gardens. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart in an area that gets plenty of sunlight and has fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8.

How do you grow mustard fast? ›

How to grow mustard in a garden
  1. Choose a sunny or part shade spot in your garden with well-drained soil. ...
  2. Sow seed direct, planting them in clumps of 2-3 seeds in 30 cm intervals. ...
  3. Water regularly. ...
  4. When plants are 10 – 15 cm tall, cut them with scissors just above ground level.

How do you grow and use mustard? ›

Mustard is easy to grow

Mustard will grow well in most soils, but will produce the most seed in rich, well-drained, well-prepared soil with a pH of no less than 6.0. It will thrive if given constant moisture. It likes cool weather; a light frost can even improve the flavor. Black mustard is the least fussy.

How long do mustard plants take to grow? ›

Harvesting Mustard Greens and Seeds

Mustard greens grow quickly and can be ready to harvest in as few as 40 days. The most popular harvesting approach is known as the come-again-cut-again method. It's called that because the technique allows the plant to keep growing and produce additional yields for months.

How long do mustard seeds take to grow? ›

Yellow mustard has a plant maturity of 85 to 90 days; whereas, brown and oriental mustard have a plant maturity of 90 to 95 days. If the temperature conditions are conducive to growth, a mustard plant will begin to bud five weeks after the seedlings have appeared. The plant will reach full bloom 7 to 10 days later.

Where do mustard plants grow? ›

Mustard is primarily grown in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington. Yellow mustard varieties usually mature in 80 to 85 days, while brown and oriental varieties typically require 90 to 95 days to mature. Mustard is best adapted to grow in fertile, well-drained, loamy soils.

Why do we plant mustard? ›

Brassicas, such as mustard, have high amounts of glucosinolates. When the mustard plant is incorporated in the ground and decomposition starts glucosinolates are released into the soil. This release is what triggers the biofumigant response. The use of these plants may reduce the amount of pesticides used.

Why do farmers grow mustard? ›

Benefits of Mustard

The practice of using mustard cover crops to manage soil-borne pathogens is known as biofumigation. Biofumigation is simply the suppression of various soil-borne pests and diseases through naturally occurring compounds.

Which season is best to grow mustard? ›

Mustard is a rabi crop and is grown during months of October to March.

Does the mustard seed grow quickly? ›

The best time to sow the seeds is a couple of weeks before the last frost date so sow mustard seeds around mid April. The seedlings should appear in a week to ten days and grow rapidly.

Can mustard grow in water? ›

Mustard greens grow better hydroponically – Mustard greens will produce better yields than if they were grown in soil. Hydroponic production increases 3 to 10 times in the same amount of space.

Do mustard plants need a lot of water? ›

Mustard seed plants need 2 inches (5 cm.) of water a week. Normally, during cool weather, you should get enough rainfall to supply this, but if you don't, you'll need to do additional watering.

Which seed will grow in 2 days? ›

Chives. Chives are a great herb to grow on your kitchen counter! They come up very quickly—it'll only take 2-3 days for chives to sprout.

What is the life cycle of mustard? ›

Throughout the life cycle, mustard plants have eight principle growth stages: germination, leaf development, stem elongation, inflorescence emergence, flowering, fruit development, ripening and senescence.

Do mustard seeds need water to grow? ›

Care: Needs constant moisture for optimal growth. Make sure that the pH of the soil is not more than 6.0. Cool weather is best for the mustard plant and a light frost can actually add to the flavour of the seeds.

What temperature do mustard seeds grow best in? ›

Mustard can be sown after soils reach 40°F. Seeds germinate best at 55-65°F and require 7-10 days to emerge. Temperatures above 80°F reduce seed germination. Seeds should be planted ½ inch deep.

How many seeds can one mustard plant produce? ›

Emergence: Emerges from soil depths of 1-inch or less. Seed: Production Range: Approximately 1,200 seeds per plant.

Who grows the most mustard? ›

Mustard seed is produced in over 21 different countries. Canada is the world's leading producer of mustard seed.

Which soil is suitable for mustard? ›

Sandy loam to clay loam soils but thrive best on light loam soils. Do not tolerate water logging conditions or heavy soils Soil having neutral pH is ideal for their proper growth and development.

What Colour is mustard plant? ›

Some mustard plants have yellow flowers, while others bloom in white. Depending on the variety that you grow, mustard's tiny round1 seeds are either yellow, brown, or black.

Is mustard a plant or tree? ›

The mustard plant is any one of several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis in the family Brassicaceae (the mustard family). Mustard seed is used as a spice. Grinding and mixing the seeds with water, vinegar, or other liquids creates the yellow condiment known as prepared mustard.

How big is a mustard seed? ›

Mustard seeds, both white and brown, are nearly globular in shape, finely pitted, odourless when whole, and pungent-tasting. White mustard seeds are light yellow in colour and about 2.5 mm (0.1 inch) in diameter. Brown mustard seeds are about the same size but are a darker yellow in colour.

Does mustard grow in winter? ›

Mustard is a Rabi crop which farmers start sowing in the beginning of winter that is the month of October and November as they need low temperature. Mustard is harvested in the month of April and May.

Can mustard grow in hot weather? ›

Mustard is a cool-season crop. It's hardy, but the seeds will not germinate well if you sow them too early; plant the seeds in your garden on the average date of last frost. Mustard is grown like lettuce. It is more heat tolerant than lettuce, but long hot summer days will force the plant to bolt (go to seed).

Which fertilizer is best for mustard? ›

Nitrogen (N) is essential for vigorous growth, high yield and quality of mustard. Nitrogen is essential in the production of plant proteins and chlorophyll, and is needed in the greatest amount compared to the other macronutrients.

How long does a mustard plant live? ›

Yellow mustard has a life cycle of 80 to 85 days. Brown mustard matures in 90 to 95 days. Because brown and oriental mustard varieties shatter more easily than yellow mustard, they should be harvested before the pods are fully dry.

Does mustard plants need sunlight? ›

Full sun to partial afternoon shade.

What temperature can mustard survive? ›

Mustard will withstand a light frost, down to 26° F, and succumb to killing frosts. You have the option of mowing and incorporating the mustard at the first signs of flowering, immediately after it is killed by frost, or the following spring.

How do you harvest mustard greens so it keeps growing? ›

Mustard greens can be harvested in about 6 weeks. To harvest, cut the large outside leaves at the base and leave the smaller, inner leaves to continue to grow. You can continuously harvest throughout the season.

When can you plant mustard cover crop? ›

Either autumn or any time after March as a short term crop. It is not usual practice to top mustard, except immediately prior to incorporation. If sown in spring, flea beetle can hamper the establishment, although most crops will grow through this, due to the speed of early establishment.

Why is mustard a cover crop? ›

Mustard cover crops have been extremely effective at suppressing winter weeds in tillage intensive, high value vegetable production systems in Salinas, California. Mustards work well in tillage intensive systems because they are relatively easy to incorporate into the soil prior to planting vegetables.

Do we need to soak mustard seeds before planting? ›

To start your sprouts, you will want to soak your seeds in a bowl of cool water for 4-6 hours, or overnight, making certain that seeds are submersed and not floating on top of the water. This will soften the seed coat and promote germination. After soaking, thoroughly drain off all water.

What is the process of making mustard? ›

The process can be summarized as follows: A smooth mustard is produced by dispersing mustard flour and other ingredients into water, or a mixture of water and vinegar, and mixing until homogeneous. Coarse grain mustard can be manufactured in several stages.

How and When mustard seeds should be planted? ›

Depending on your living climate, the seeds should be sown in February to April for spring time crops, and from July to October for fall crops. Plant the seeds 1/2 an inch deep (1.25cm), and 15 inches (36cm) apart. Once the plants are up, thin the seeds to about 9-10 inches (24-26cm) apart from each other.

Do mustard seeds need a lot of water? ›

Mustard seed plants need 2 inches (5 cm.) of water a week. Normally, during cool weather, you should get enough rainfall to supply this, but if you don't, you'll need to do additional watering.

What is the best fertilizer for mustard greens? ›

Organic slow-release fertilizers good for mustard include blood meal, alfalfa meal, and worm castings. If you have a very long growing season or your soil is poor, you can top dress with more slow-release fertilizer every 1 to 2 months.

How many seeds do I need to plant mustard? ›

Seeds should sprout in 5-10 days. If growing to full size, sow 3-4 seeds in each spot you want a plant to grow. Sow 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep and thin to the strongest plant, spaced 10-15cm (4-6″) in the row. All mustards can be grown in containers for baby salad greens.

Can mustard seeds grow in water? ›

(Mustard seeds can germinate easily, so we don't have to soak it in water first.) Cover them up with another 2 pieces of wet paper towels. Water them daily. If there's additional water on the bottom, throw it out.

How many seeds does a mustard plant produce? ›

Wild mustard plants have from 10-18 seeds per pod and from 2,000-3,500 seeds per plant.

What is mustard short answer? ›

mustard, condiment made from the pungent seeds of either of two main herbs belonging to the family Brassicaceae. The principal types are white, or yellow, mustard (Sinapis alba), a plant of Mediterranean origin; and brown, or Indian, mustard (Brassica juncea), which is of Himalayan origin.

How is mustard made from seed? ›

Making your own mustard is easier than you might think – it's as simple as crushing the seeds with a liquid and adding a preserving agent such as vinegar, sugar or salt – but there are many variables to create different strengths and flavours.

How late can you plant mustard? ›

Mustard does not tolerate heat and bolts (runs to seed) when weather warms in late spring. Plant seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in spring and 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost in fall.

How do I take care of a mustard plant? ›

Give the plants plenty of sun or partial shade, and keep in mind that mustard greens like cool weather and grow rapidly. You can fertilize with a balanced fertilizer, but often these vegetables don't need it when in a well amended vegetable garden soil. Mustard greens need 2 inches (5 cm.) of water a week.

How do you know when mustard seeds are ready to harvest? ›

Open the pods and look for seed colour change. For yellow and oriental mustard, swathing should occur when 75 per cent of the seeds have changed from green to yellow. For brown mustard, optimal swathing timing is when 60 per cent of seeds have changed from green to brownish or red.

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