Mustum Ardens

Mustard / Sarson / Rai, is one of the most humble spices sitting on our kitchen shelf.  You would not realise the importance unless it goes missing.  Be it in a sambar from a South Indian household or in the prawns made of mustard paste and fried using mustard oil or a sarson da saag eaten with makki ki roti in a Punjabi household, this spice is so versatile and used in every Indian home.

The word mustard comes from a Latin word “Mustum Ardens”, which means “Burning Must”. In ancient Greek, the seeds were ground and mixed with unfermented grape which is called “A Must”.

There are multiple stories regarding its origin. As per archaeologists and botanist mustard seeds were found way back since stone age settlement. It is also believed to have originated in the Ancient Egypt. The Greeks used mustard as a medicine and as a spice.

What’s fascinating is that it has been mentioned in the bible as a “Symbol of Faith”. Mustard seeds are mentioned as a tiny seed which grows into a great shade providing plant, symbolising that any humble beginnings along with faith can turn into a something great.

We do not appreciate the health benefits it deserves, or we can say, we are very much unaware about the health benefits that we get from Mustard seeds and its oil.

Mustard is high in magnesium and helps lower blood pressure. It also helps to digest food more effectively and efficiently.  wonder if this why I see them in every single food down south India? Amazing, how our ancestors created the menu, as South Indian food is usually a blend of many such ingredients and when we read through the details case by case, we realise how significant each and every spice is for our health.

There are 11 different varieties of mustard, out of which the most famous one being Dijon Mustard which hails from Dijon, France, hence the name.

We cannot ignore the oil that is prepared out of mustard and famously used in most of the Indian cooking, which is Mustard Oil. Mustard seeds are pressed in the mustard oil press machine, where the seeds are crushed and pressed for an hour or more to prepare the oil. This process produces approximately 26% oil from the seeds. The process is continued until all the oil is extracted from the seeds. Yet again, just like the seeds, mustard oil is extremely versatile and enhances the taste of any dish immediately. However, it is used not just in cooking and preparing pickles, but also used as a vanity! Yes! You read that right! Since the oil contains anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, they are used for curing many skin infections. The oil is high in vitamin E and alpha linoleic acid, and very effective to hydrate your skin, it gives a glow to your skin and can also be used as a make-up remover!

Overall, this seed and its oil comes with multiple benefits. So next time you eat them or use the oil, use it without any hesitation as you know their story now!

Ciao until next time with a history or a story of another ingredient, food or a recipe.


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