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Black Mustard

(Brassica nigra)

These plants are annuals, often reaching four to six feet in height. They are simple branching plants, with the lower part of the stem having stiff hairs, while the upper part is smooth.

All the leaves have stalks, and the lower are large and deeply lobed, but the upper leaves are small and merely toothed. The flowers are in long racemes and yellow. The seed pods are four-angled and stand erect to the stem.

This plant is native of Eurasia but is common all over the northern part of the United States and Canada. It is universally recognized because of its bright yellow flowers.

The name mustard is a corruption of the name “must seeds” given the seeds by ancient Britons at the time of the Roman occupation. To make a condiment, the Romans used to grind the seeds and mix them with new wine, or “must”.

In the Bush

As a Fresh Vegetable: Young mustard plants are most agreeable to eat raw. They will give a real lift when you are tired and dehydrated after a long day of hiking, fishing, etc.

In Soup: Heat a quart of milk slowly, almost to the boiling point. Meanwhile melt two tablespoons of bacon fat in a frying pan and add a couple wild onions, finely chopped. Let the onions brown for a minute or so before you add a couple of cups of finely shredded mustard leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper. If you have some flour on hand, add a couple of tablespoons to thicken the soup. Cook about 5 minutes, then add 1 cup of the heated milk with constant stirring and simmer for a couple minutes. Add the mixture from the frying pan, and mix well.

As a Cooked Vegetable: Later in the summer, the profusion of golden flowers can be capitalized upon to make a colorful and vitamin-rich dish. Pick the flowers, remembering you need a lot. Plunge them into boiling water and let them cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes, well covered. Drain and spread with melted butter, margarine, or even porcupine fat.

In Salad: Black mustard seeds are a excellent garnish or season for a fresh green salad.

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