Getting to Know the Greatest among Herbs.
Getting to Know the "Greatest among Herbs"
In one of five mustard references in the Bible, Matthew calls mustard "the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs." and so it is. Cultivation of mustard seeds dates back at least to the fifth century BC in Mesopotamia. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Indians, and Greeks not only used mustard leaf and seeds as a foodstuff but also to treat ailments of the liver, kidney, and lungs, and externally, in the form of poultices for aches and pains. The Romans first recognized the Dijon region of Burgundy as especially well suited to the plant. They also discovered mustard's ability as an antimicrobial preservative, as well as its flavor potential by grinding the seeds and mixing the resulting flour with vinegar, unfermented grape juice, wine, and honey. epicureans of the period sought out Apicus's Cookbook, De Re Coquinaria, which includes dozens of recipes featuring mustard, including this enticing sauce for wild boar: "grind and mix mustard, pepper, caraway, lovage, grilled coriander seeds, dill, celery, thyme, oregano, onion, honey, vinegar, fish broth, and oil."
By the Middle ages mustard was the indispensable meat condiment in all of northern Europe. Most every household in England would keep a mustard pot, to be replenished by traveling vendors selling mustard from carts, and when specialty mustard-maker grey met financier Poupon in 1777 in Dijon, mustard began to take itself very seriously.
We have the Spanish to thank for bringing mustard to the Americas, and Father Junipero Serra, specifically, for scattering black mustard seeds along the trails between Californian monasteries in 1768. The brilliant golden-yellow spring blossoms still mark the history-laden path today.