Mustard Oil & Seeds Mustard Family - Seeds & Oils


The huge and important Cabbage / Mustard family (Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae)) is best known for the leafy and root vegetables that got humans through the winter in earlier times, but this family also produces some important seeds and oils.

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Mustard Seed   -   [White Mustard; Sinapis alba alt Brassica alba, B. hirta   |   Black Mustard; Brassica nigra   |   Brown Mustard, Indian Brown Mustard, Leaf Mustard; Brassica juncea]
Forms and Preparations of Mustard Seed

Mustard seeds come in three colors, white (actually yellow or tan), black (actually a very dark brown), and brown. White mustard seed is the norm in Europe and used to make prepared mustard (top left) and powdered mustard (top right). Black mustard seed is preferred in India where it is much used as a spice in cooking. Brown mustard seed is grown in Russia for seed oil and to produce "Hot Russian Mustard". It is also used to produce mustard greens in Russia and Asia. For more on mustard seed see our page Mustard Seed & Oil.

Canola Oil   -   [Lear Oil, Brassica campestris]
Flowering Canola Plant

When Canada's market for rapeseed oil, used to lubricate steam machinery, faded away after World War II, they needed a new market, and chose "health food", a choice that had worked well for some other industrial products that needed a new market. The FDA wouldn't let it be sold in the United States due to a high content of erucic acid, so they developed a low erucic acid variety (originally by breeding - but now it's all genetically engineered) called "lear oil" (Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed Oil) which the FDA approved (there are rumors significant money changed hands to get the GRAS rating).

Lear Oil wasn't a sellable name, so it was re-named "Canola Oil", and a huge marketing campaign was launched. This campaign was so successful practically every recipe you read these days calls specifically for Canola Oil. Some actual experts in edible oils are not at all confident in the health safety of this oil. For details see our Canola Oil page.

London Rocket - Teff   -   [Khakshir (Persian);Sisymbrium irio]
London Rocket Seeds

Caution: This is NOT the "Teff" from which Injera bread is made in Ethiopia and Eritrea, even though it looks a lot like it. This one is a Mustard Seed, not a Grain, and is used in Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan in the making of Sharbat, a refreshing cold soft drink, and as a medicinal. The dried leaves are used by the Bedouin as a Tobacco substitute. It got the name "London Rocket" because it grew so prolifically after the Great London Fire, and was also found around bomb craters during the Blitz. The tiny seeds are about 0.001 inch wide (0.025 mm) and about 0.0015 inches long (0.038 mm). Details and Cooking.

Mustard Seed Oil   -   [White Mustard; Sinapis alba alt Brassica alba, B. hirta   |   Black Mustard; Brassica nigra   |   Brown Mustard, Indian Brown Mustard, Leaf Mustard; Brassica juncea]
Mustard Seeds & Oil

Mustard Oil is the traditional cooking oil of Bengal (West Bengal in northeast India and Bangladesh) and is used for some types of frying throughout northern India. It is considered essential for reproducing the unique flavors of the regions where it is used. All mustard seed oil sold in the United States is labeled "for massage use only" because it lacks FDA approval. The reasons are now considered invalid, but there's no money for an FDA reevaluation. I suppose you can use it for massage (it might sting a bit) but nearly all is used for cooking. For details see our Mustard Seed Oil page.

Fendler's Bladderpod   -   [Yellowtop, Lesquerella; Physaria fendleri]
Flowering Bladderpod Plant

This plant, native to southwest United States and northern Mexico, is not currently well known, but is increasingly in cultivation in its native region. Development of improved varieties is in progress. The main product is oil from its seeds. This oil is not used for cooking, but for cosmetics and feedstock for industrial products, in place of much more hazardous to produce castor oil. The seed coat, however, contains a gum that may find use in foods in place of xanthan gum. The mash from oil extraction is high in protein with an amino acid distribution similar to soybeans, so may prove to be a useful animal fodder.   Photo by Russ Kleinman from Western New Mexico University Department of Natural Sciences and the Dale A. Zimmerman Herbarium - © permission granted.

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©Andrew Grygus - agryg@clovegarden.com - Photos on this page not otherwise credited © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted