Botanical Name: Brassica nigra
Species: B. nigra
Common Name: Black Mustard
Habitat: Brassica nigra is native to tropical regions of North Africa, temperate regions of Europe and parts of Asia.( C. Europe. Occasionally naturalized in S.W. Britain). It grows on Cliffs near the sea in S. W. England.
Brassica nigra is an annual plant growing upright to 1.2 m (4ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in). with large stalked leaves. They are covered with hairs or bristles at the base, but on the stem smoother. It can reach up to 80–90 cm (31–35 in) tall or even up to 2.4 m (8 ft) in moist fertile soil. It blooms in summer, from May (in the UK) onwards. The flowers have four yellow petals, which are twice as long as the sepals. Each stem has around four flowers at the top, forming a ring around the stem. Later, the plant forms long seed pods, that contain four rounded seeds.
An easily grown plant, black mustard is suited to many types of soils except very heavy clays, it grows best on light sandy loams, or deep rich fertile soils. Succeeds in full sun in a well-drained fertile preferably alkaline soil. Prefers a heavy soil in an open position. Another report says that it prefers a light well-drained soil and some shade in the summer. The plant tolerates an annual precipitation of 30 to 170cm, an annual average temperature range of 6 to 27°C and a pH in the range of 4.9 to 8.2. Black mustard is adapted to a wide variety of climatic conditions, it 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. Black mustard is often cultivated for its edible seed, though it is going out of favour because it rapidly sheds its seeds once they are ripe and this makes it harder to harvest mechanically than the less pungent brown mustard (Brassica juncea).. This is used especially as a food flavouring, though it is also sown with the seeds of garden cress (Lepidium sativum) to provide mustard and cress, a salading eaten when the seedlings are about one week old. Black mustard is also grown as a medicinal plant. It germinates freely and quickly grows rapidly and makes a very useful green manure. The plants are not very winter hardy so the seed is best sown in the spring when grown for its seed whilst it can be sown as late as late summer as a green manure crop. The flowers have a pleasing perfume, though this is only noticed if several flowers are inhaled at the same time.
Leaves – raw or cooked. A hot flavour, they can be finely chopped and added to salads or cooked as a potherb. The seedlings can also be used as a salading when about one week old, adding a hot pungency to a salad. Immature flowering stems – cooked and eaten like broccoli. Mustard seed is commonly ground into a powder and used as a food flavouring and relish. This is the black mustard of commerce, it is widely used as a food relish and as an ingredient of curry. Pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed – an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 – 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild bitter mustard. The seed can also be used whole to season pickles, curries, sauerkraut etc. Black mustard has a stronger more pungent flavour than white mustard (Sinapis alba) and brown mustard (B. juncea). An edible oil is obtained from the seed.
Mustard seed is often used in herbal medicine, especially as a rubefacient poultice. The seed is ground and made into a paste then applied to the skin in the treatment of rheumatism, as a means of reducing congestion in internal organs. Applied externally, mustard relieves congestion by drawing the blood to the surface as in head afflictions, neuralgia and spasms. Hot water poured on bruised seeds makes a stimulant foot bath, good for colds and headaches. Old herbals suggested mustard for treating alopecia, epilepsy, snakebite, and toothache. Care must be taken not to overdo it, since poultices can sometimes cause quite severe irritation to the skin. The seed is also used internally, when it is appetizer, digestive, diuretic, emetic and tonic. Swallowed whole when mixed with molasses, it acts as a laxative. A decoction of the seeds is used in the treatment of indurations of the liver and spleen. It is also used to treat carcinoma, throat tumours, and imposthumes. A liquid prepared from the seed, when gargled, is said to help tumours of the “sinax.”. The seed is eaten as a tonic and appetite stimulant. Hot water poured onto bruised mustard seeds makes a stimulating foot bath and can also be used as an inhaler where it acts to throw off a cold or dispel a headache. Mustard Oil is said to stimulate hair growth. Mustard is also recommended as an aperient ingredient of tea, useful in hiccup. Mustard flour is considered antiseptic.
A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, as well as being edible it is also used as a lubricant, illuminant and in making soap. The plant is often grown as a green manure, it is very fast, producing a bulk suitable for digging into the soil in about 8 weeks. Not very winter hardy, it is generally used in spring and summer. It does harbour the pests and diseases of the cabbage family so is probably best avoided where these plants are grown in a short rotation and especially if club root is a problem. Mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate) is used in commercial cat and dog repellent mixtures.
Known Hazards: When eaten in large quantities, the seed and pods have sometimes proved toxic to grazing animals. Mustard allergy possibly especially in children and adolescents. Retention of seeds possibly in intestines if taken internally.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.