Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Collecting Mustard Seed

A few years ago someone gave me mustard seed.  I don't remember who was responsible for the gift.  What I do remember was that I wasn't sure I wanted mustard seed.  I had never eaten mustard as a green and didn't know if I would like it.  But I can't resist a seed and so it was planted one spring with low expectations.  

Look what appeared.

Giant Red Mustard
From a tiny reddish looking seedling giant red leaves grew.  This plant is so pretty you might just want to have it as an ornamental.

red mustard  leaves
But does it taste good?  The answer is yes.  It's got a bit of that horseradish kick so we don't eat it in large quantities but when you want to add a little zing to otherwise bland salad greens this is the way to do it.  Ever since that first planting I'm hooked.

Most salad greens are pulled in summer because they bolt and go to seed.  But I'm a lazy gardener so I let the plants grow and grow.  Now I know why it's called Giant Red Mustard.  Not only are the leaves large but these beauties can reach 4 feet tall in mid-summer.  Like other plants in the mustard family they produce clouds of tiny yellow blossoms.


Bright red and green leaves with yellow flowers.  Pretty stylish plant I'd say.  Once it's done blooming the show still isn't over.  Even the seed pods look good.  Green pods ripen to red and then brown as they dry.


Now if you're going to let you plant flower and produce seed you might as well collect some of it.  Dried mustard pods are easily cracked open to reveal small round seeds, around 10 seeds per pod.


So many seeds in a pod makes for easy collection.  I simply grabbed a paper bag and ran my hands up the stem of the plant pulling the pods off and into the bag.  Some pods broke as I did this releasing the seeds.  I wound up with pods and seeds in my bag which I brought indoors and sorted.

Using a screen to separate pods and seeds
Screens are handy tools when cleaning seeds.  Drop the bag of seed on your screen.  Smoosh it around a bit and the seeds will fall through the screen and the pods will lay on top.

If you don't have a screen don't worry.  Just drop the lot on a piece of paper.  The seeds are heavier than the dried pods and will fall to the bottom.  Scoop the pods off the top, scraping out any excess seeds that haven't fallen out.  Even if you miss a few you will easily have mustard seed for yourself and all your friends.


Mustard is very easy to germinate and grow.  I plant it directly into the garden in early spring as soon as the snow has melted.  The plants prefer cool weather and sprout within a week or so for spring salads.  Pair it with young lettuce to spice up your dinner plate.  or if you prefer plant it just because it's darn good looking.

24 comments:

  1. This is so interesting! I had no idea that you could eat mustard as a green. Can you also cook it in the way you might cook spinach? I was thinking that it mustard greens might be interesting in a curry. Are you using just a screen or a screened box to collect your seeds? At any rate, a screen would be a great tool for collecting seeds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jennifer, I've never eaten mustard cooked but according to Brenda's comment they can be. I imagine it would be like beet greens or chard. Now you've got me thinking I should be using them in stirfrys. I just lay paper under my screen to collect the seeds that fall through. A box might be better as these seeds roll a lot though.

      Delete
  2. I always admire people that collect/use seeds. I am more of a plant person. I usually purchase plants. I do use some seed just not a whole lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa, my mom collected seeds so I think I got the bug for this early in life. I don't generally collect really difficult seeds but there's so many easy ones to do that I can't help myself.

      Delete
  3. The red giant mustard was the first one I ever grew and I felt just as you do Marguerite. Then I tried Green wave and red wave, smaller and quite hardy. They are actually in the raised bed cold frame and could be picked for the winter salad. But, I have never saved the seeds and I just wonder if they would be the same mustard seeds used in Indian Cooking as I feel they must be. Also, I have used the large leaves as spinach, which softens the bite when cooked. I really must try saving the seeds! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does the green mustard produce lighter coloured seed I wonder? The mustard seed I have in my kitchen is a light tan colour while the mustard I collected is black. Would make sense it's coming from the same type of plant. Now I'm going to have to try cooking the leaves this year. I never even realized you could do that.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for the tip. I think this would be a fun addition to our garden.
    I have to share a funny story with you. I never knew what lettuce looked like to seed. I wondered why I did not let some lettuce go so I could see it and harvest the seed. This past summer I did and it was fun.
    I really should harvest more of my seeds. Thank you for inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment Carla. Isn't it amazing how pretty some of the flowering veggies are? We don't really think of lettuce as having flowers but they really are a pretty plant. Lettuce is another great plant to collect from, easy to harvest and better than paying for seed.

      Delete
  5. I've never grown mustard but I did see huge fields of it when I was in Germany and it was simply beautiful. But I do enjoy the zesty leaves in a salad. Gotta love a tasty, beautiful, easy to grow plant. :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. fields of mustard? that's kind of amazing. silly question but I wonder if they use it to make mustard? I wonder where the yellow colour comes from. Clearly I need to do some googling!

      Delete
  6. I do like mustard greens, they have a bit of a kick. A friend likes to wrap hot dogs in a mustard leaf instead of using the prepared stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great idea Jason! Some greens and taste to your hotdog, I may need to try this come spring.

      Delete
  7. I usually grow mine in a batch of spicy salad leaves - it certainly does pep things up - I have never thought of letting it go to seed and saving them - but seeing as the seed is quite expensive and you get so few in a packet I think I'll give it a try this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elaine, it is one of the easiest seeds I collect. If you have the space to let the plants go it's definitely worth it. Lots of seed for very little effort.

      Delete
  8. Marguerite girl I had no idea how amazing this plant is!
    The leaves are indeed very ornamental and the flowers to seed pods are so interesting. You took great pictures of them all , especially the seed collection.
    Now you have me curious as to what it would taste like mixed in a salad !
    Nice to see a post not winter related .. my brain is full of SNOW! LOL
    Joy : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My one regret Joy is that I didn't get a photo of the plant when it is fully mature. At four feet high and blooming they are really something to see. I don't like a lot of this in a salad but a few leaves adds just the right amount of kick.

      It's only been a couple weeks since it really started snowing and I'm already starting to get weary. We're expecting another big one tomorrow. 50cm they say. I have retired to my seed catalogues rather than look out the window.

      Delete
  9. I have never collected mustard seeds as I don’t leave them that long, but I have eaten them many times as I usually plant a salad mix to cut-and-come-again in a window box, and one of the leaves is mustard. I like the taste of it, one of the other salad leaves is rocket and together with more ordinary tasting leaves they make a good salad bowl in one window box.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a fantastic idea Helene planting a salad mix in one box. Very frugal use of space. If I didn't collect the seed I don't think I would plant very much mustard. We like it but you only need a little to add the necessary spice to your salad mix.

      Delete
  10. I've never eaten mustard greens before, so I've also never planted it. But what a pretty plant! It reminds me of the redbur kale I had a few years ago--I never ate it, but it was such an attractive tall plant in the veggie garden and even looked good in early winter. Seeing Carla's comment made me think--I usually let my lettuce and spinach bolt, too; now I wonder if I can collect the seeds from them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, your kale sounds interesting. I've had a similar situation with chard. Gorgeous plant, but I'd rather look at it than eat it. You can definitely collect your lettuce seed if you let it sit long enough. I haven't collected spinach but I believe it's the same. I find lettuce a little more time consuming to clean but I have an heirloom variety that's hard to find so I keep my own seed.

      Delete
  11. Very informative post and lovely photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Mustard has naturalized in the South, maybe other places too. There was some growing wild on the farm and DH harvested it and was it bitter! lol I don't know if it was old or needed a frost or what. Usually he likes mustard greens although his favorite is collard greens.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This was a delightful post! That's a great picture of you in the garden photographing the butterflies.

    At this point attracting wildlife is more important to me than how the garden looks. After all, the wildlife is beautiful too, and I think the local wildlife deserve a good home.

    ReplyDelete