Mustard historyMustard is a member of the Brassica family of plants which bears tiny round edible seeds as well as tasty leaves. Its English name, mustard, is derived from a contraction of the Latin mustum ardens meaning burning must. This is a reference to the spicy heat of the crushed mustard seeds and the French practice of mixing the ground seeds with must, the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes.
At first, mustard was considered a medicinal plant rather than a culinary one. In the sixth century B.C., Greek scientist Pythagoras used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings. One hundred years later, Hippocrates used mustard in a variety of medicines and poultices. Mustard plasters were applied to "cure" toothaches and a number of other ailments.
Prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans, who used to grind mustard seeds and mix them with wine into a paste not much different from the prepared mustards we know today.
The mustard seed is a prominent reference for those of the Christian faith, exemplifying something which is small and insignificant, which when planted, grows in strength and power. Pope John XII was so fond of mustard that he created a new Vatican position - grand moutardier du pape (mustard-maker to the pope) - and promptly filled the post with his nephew.
In 1866, Jeremiah Colman, founder of Colman's Mustard of England, was appointed as mustard-maker to Queen Victoria. Colman perfected the technique of grinding mustard seeds into a fine powder without creating the heat which brings out the oil. The oil must not be exposed or the flavor will evaporate with the oil.
We all know that losers and quitters can't cut the mustard (live up to the challenge). And perhaps the reason ballpark mustard is so popular is because pitchers apply mustard to their fastballs to get those strike-outs. The disabling and even lethal chemical weapon known as mustard gas is a synthetic copy based on the volatile nature of mustard oils.
More about Mustard:
Mustard Substitutions and Cooking Tips
Mustard Seed Types
Mustard Selection and Storage
What makes mustard hot? FAQ
Mustard Legend and Lore
Mustard and Health
Mustard Seed and Mustard Recipes
Mustard Photo © 2009 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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