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Definition: mustard from Philip's Encyclopedia

Any of various species of annual and perennial plants, native to the temperate zone. These plants have pungent-flavoured leaves, cross-shaped, four-petalled flowers and carry pods. The seeds of some species are ground to produce the condiment, mustard. Height: 1.8-4m (6-13ft). Family Brassicaceae/Cruciferae.


Summary Article: mustard
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

common name for the Cruciferae, or Brassicaceae, a large family chiefly of herbs of north temperate regions. The easily distinguished flowers of the Cruciferae have four petals arranged diagonally (“cruciform”) and alternating with the four sepals. Most of the nearly 50 genera indigenous to the United States are found in the West. The family includes numerous weeds and wildflowers, e.g., peppergrass, toothwort, and shepherd's-purse. The Cruciferae, often rich in sulfur compounds and in vitamin C, include important food and condiment plants, many cultivated from ancient times. Especially important are the herbs of the genus Brassica, e.g., rape, rutabaga, turnip, mustard, and numerous varieties of the cabbage species. Cress, watercress, horse-radish, and radish are also of this family. A few species are cultivated as ornamentals, e.g., candytuft, rose of Jericho, wallflower, and types of stock, rocket, and alyssum. Woad was formerly an important dye source. The herbs of the family that are called mustard are species of Brassica and Sinapis (formerly included in Brassica) native to Europe and W Asia. Most important commercially are the black mustard (B. nigra) and white mustard (S. alba). These are yellow-flowered annuals naturalized in the United States; the black mustard is often a weed infesting grainfields, as is also the charlock, or wild mustard (S. arvensis). The black and the white mustard resemble each other and are used more or less similarly. They are cultivated for the seeds, which are ground and used as a condiment, usually mixed to a paste with vinegar or oil, sometimes with spices or with an admixture of starch to reduce the pungency. (The pungency of mustard does not develop until it is moistened.) Black mustard seeds are more pungent than the white and yield a yellowish, biting oil (mustard oil) that has also been useful in medicine. The white mustard is used in some places as forage for sheep and as green manure. Mustards are also grown as salad plants and for greens, as are the Indian, or leaf, mustard (B. juncea) and the Chinese mustard, or bok choy (B. rapa chinensis). Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), an Old World herb whose leaves and seeds are used to season food, is an invasive species in many parts of North America. Mustard is classified in the divison Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Capparales (or Brassicales), family Cruciferae (or Brassicaceae).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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