hardening off mustard plant

How To Grow Mustard For Seed

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One of the new things I wanted to try this year was to plant mustard, not for the greens (haven’t acquired a taste for mustard greens yet) but for the seeds. I use mustard seeds in pickles, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and yes you can even make that yellow condiment we all know so well from the plants’ seeds.

I dutifully started the mustard seeds indoors {How To Grow Mustard From Seed}, and transplanted them into the ground several weeks later.

garden june 2013 mustard

They grew well, then shot up in height and soon produced little yellow flowers at the ends of their stalks.

mustard flowers

I kept watching the flowers expecting that to be where the seeds developed. But the flower heads were very small, and I thought to myself that if that’s all the seed I was going to get, I’d have to plant a TON of mustard to get enough seeds to make anything with.

And then something I didn’t expect happened. One day I was out in the garden checking on the plants’ progress, and I noticed little pods forming all up and down the mustard plants’ bare stems. I left them alone for several days, but once they started to dry up and turn brown I took one of those pods in my hand and broke it open.

Mustard Seed Pods

And there they were. SEEDS! Tons and TONS of seeds! The plants were loaded with ’em. I was thrilled and excited by my new discovery.

There was only one curiosity that puzzled me. The seeds in my garden were brown. I thought mustard seeds are supposed to be yellow? I took a palmful inside to compare with the seeds I have in my spice cabinet. Sure enough, they definitely weren’t the same kind of seeds.

mustard seeds

A little bit of investigating brought me to the realization that I had planted the wrong kind of mustard for saving yellow mustard seeds. Oops. What I planted  was Southern Giant Curled Mustard. Brown seeds. I suppose if I’d paid any attention at all at planting time the brown seeds I stuck in the ground would have been a clue. *Hand smacking forehead*

The good news is my seeds are still very much useable. They are a little hotter, and are actually preferred in Asian, African, and Indian dishes, but are still great for cooking with. Still, not what I was hoping for.

White (also called yellow) mustard seeds are what are typically used for American and European dishes. Here’s an interesting excerpt from VegetableGardener.com:

All mustards come from the Cruciferae, a family that includes broccoli and cabbage. Brassica nigra, B. alba, and B. juncea produce black, white (really a yellowish-tan), and brown seeds, respectively. The black seeds of B. nigra are used for moderately spicy mustards. French cooks use them to make Dijon-style mustard—it can be called true Dijon mustard only if it is certified to come from that city, which has the exclusive right to produce it. In West Indian dishes, black seeds are fried until they pop. The black variety produces less-desirable greens, and is really intended to be grown for seed.

White seeds—B. alba—are the primary ingredient in traditional ball-park mustard, and it’s the most common and the mildest of the three. The white seeds also have the strongest preserving power and are therefore the kitchen gardener’s choice for pickles, relishes, and chutneys. White mustards are not typically grown for their greens.
Brown mustard, the hottest of all, is used for curries and Chinese hot mustards, and frequently for Dijon-type mustards. If you’re growing mustard for the greens, choose B. juncea or an Oriental variety like ‘Giant Red’.

So there you have it.

If you do any pickling, or are interested at all in mixing up your own condiments, mustard is easy to grow and so much cheaper than buying a jar in the spice section.

Just be sure to plant the right variety.

FYI, I found some White Mustard Seeds (Sinapis alba) for sale at Horizon Herbs, if you’re interested.

*UPDATE: I’m so excited to share that in doing a little more research, the black and brown mustard seeds are actually perfect for making a mustard plaster to aid in chest congestion issues. Check out this article, Getting Plastered… Granny’s Way, for the how-to. Woo-hoo! I didn’t waste time and space growing these seeds after all.

Have you tried to grow mustard for seed yet?

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31 thoughts on “How To Grow Mustard For Seed”

  1. I’ve started.making mustard at home myself. White, brown, black in that order from mildest to hottest. Also coming is important in producing heat. I bought the same seeds (curly). The owner of the seed and feed said the bag he gets them in says “Not for use in feed, human consumption or oils”. He thinks that’s because they haven’t been inspected for food status by the FDA. I’m gonna try and see if my health declines.

  2. I still have some pieces of the seed pod that I was not able to separate out of the seeds. Is there a trick to this? Will the mustard be acceptable if I don’t get all the chaff out?

  3. Hey there! I have some red purple mustard and I was wondering when to harvest and if I was suppose to “bake” the seeds..
    Get back at me if possible:) Cheers

    • Allow the plants to go to seed. Harvest the seeds when the seed pods are fully dried, checking daily to catch the seeds before they scatter on the ground.

  4. Great write up! I found it because I planted the same thing and only now are getting flowers… I was having the same thought as you about my yield.

    Now I’m looking for those pods to form on the stems.

  5. Thank you! Funny and wonderful read! I too bought the same seeds! I’m getting ready to add Mustard to my garden. Now I know what to expect! LOL!

  6. Hey I was trying to figure out if these two varieties would work to make mustard. Mustard: Red Giant Mustard (1g, 600 seeds)
    Mustard: Tendergreen Mustard (1g, 400 seeds)
    I bought them from my patriot supply they have a lot of great seeds but I am not sure if these will work, for anything but greens??

  7. I find mustard greens to be a bit bitter. There are some varieties that are milder. I like mustards best when clean raw leaves are chopped then sauteed in a bit of olive oil or maybe bacon grease. Saute with a bit of chopped onions. Asians add calontro. I like calontro and add it but not everyone likes it.

  8. IS this only for northern latitudes? I live in Texas and here mustard is a cool season plant. Would it have enough time to go to seed before the heat comes on?

  9. I have had my mustard greens go to seed, looked exactly the same… but I didn’t know I could make mustard with them. THANKS FOR THE TIP, CAUSE I LOVE WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD.

  10. Hi Kendra,
    About how many seeds did you get from your plants? 1 cup? 1/2 cup? I was just wondering because I’d like to let some grow to seed for mustard plasters. I’m trying to decide how large of a spot to plant. Thanks a bunch!

    • Hi Elisha,

      Since I didn’t harvest by the plant, but instead stripped all of the plants at once and then gathered the seeds, I can’t say for sure. But I would guess it was probably close to 3-4 Tbsp of seeds per plant. I realized it would take quite a few of these plants to get enough seeds to make several batches of mustard plaster. The seeds are very tiny, as you probably know. I wish I could tell you it was 1 cup per plant, but my harvest wasn’t quite that abundant. Hope that helps!

  11. I picked wild mustard for seed this year. Broke plants off near bottom & placed dried tops in pillowcase to harvest seeds.They were dark seeds. Havent used them yet. Good to hear dark seeds work.

  12. I did the same thing! lol I can’t believe I’m not alone in this. I stuck the rest of the pods out on my deck to be thrown away. I hope I didn’t ruin them. I never thought to investigate them further. Thanks for the info!

  13. We mix in small amounts of mustard greens in our salads. They are not as strong that way. Also good in small amounts on sandwiches in place of or with lettuce. And if you just do not like them at all, or just have more than you can eat, they are very good for chickens too.

  14. Very interesting! I wanted to grow mustard for the seeds too, but I got too impatient halfway through summer and pulled up all the greens so I could put something else in its place. I’m glad I did that now because our seeds were definitely brown too. Who knew there were different types of mustard plants?

  15. Thanks for your post! We grow mustards for greens every year and then I let them go to seed so I get new volunteer plants. I make homemade mustard with a mix of brown and yellow mustard seeds that I buy in bulk. I have to admit that I love it! Hope your mustard plants grow super well for you…I enjoyed reading about it!


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