There are three types of mustard: Brassica niger, black mustard, which can grow to 10 feet; B. juncea, brown mustard, which grows to only 4 ½ feet; and B. alba, white mustard, a much milder form.
The pungency of the herb is due to an essential oil which forms only when the dry mustard powder is mixed with water. B. juncea (brown mustard) is the type most commonly grown today.
Brown mustard has a mass of small, four petaled yellow flowers that form a dense carpet over the fields where they grow. It originates from china, India and Poland.
Mustard is a cool weather crop and is grown from seeds sown in early spring. It likes a moist soil and a sunny location. Harvest the seedpods in late summer before they dry, and allow the seed to ripen in the pods. Store the seed in airtight jars, away form strong light.
Powdered mustard seed should be mixed with cold water. Hot water will kill the enzymes and produce a bitter flavor. Dry mustard powder is added to salad dressings to give them pungency, and also added to egg and cheese dishes and rubbed over meat before roasting. White mustard seed is a preservative used in pickling, either alone or as an ingredient in mixed pickling spice.
A mustard bath, where the powder is mixed with hot water, is comforting for sore and aching feet and relaxes and revives the entire body.