Mustard, a member of the cruciferae family of plants, originated in the Medi-terranean and the Middle East, but is now widely cultivated elsewhere in Europe and in the United States. It has been used almost since the beginning of recorded time – both its culinary and medicinal properties are mentioned in early Greek and Roman writings.

There are three main varieties of mustard: white mustard, which has yellowish-orange seeds; black mustard, which has reddish-black seeds; and the less common wild mustard, which pro-duces rather oily seeds which are not used on their own but are sometimes mixed with the other varieties.

Although mustard is cultivated pri-marily for its seeds, its leaves, which are known as mustard greens, are also used.

Medicinal properties were once attributed to mustard greens, but they are now mainly used as a vegetable, raw or cooked.

The larger leaves are generally boiled before use to reduce their very sharp, hot flavour.

Mustard seeds are ground to produce a powder and an oil. Pure mustard oil is edible, but it is mainly used in the manu- facture of soap, leather and woollen goods and other industrial processes. In World War I, the oil extracted from black mustard was a prime ingredient of mustard gas.

Mustard used as a condiment is made from a mixture of black, white and sometimes wild mustard seeds, and their oils. The seeds are ground and sold as a fine powder, usually with the addition of a ground cereal such as wheat flour to absorb the natural oils and act as a preservative. The powder may be mixed with water or milk to form a paste before use, or added in small quantities in powdered form as a flavouring, for example, in MAYONNAISE.

Ready-made mustard, generally sold in sealed jars, is made mainly from a mixture of ground black, white and sometimes wild mustard seeds (although some countries such as France have mustards made purely from black seeds), mixed to a paste with salt, spices and vinegar or wine.

Mustard may be used to flavour meat, fish, cheese and vegetables and to season soups and sauces.