A Spice that Passes Muster
Narrated Anas: I heard the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) saying, “On the Day of Resurrection I will intercede and say, “O my Lord! Admit into Paradise (even) those who have faith equal to a mustard seed in their hearts.” Such people will enter Paradise, and then I will say, ‘O (Allah) admit into Paradise (even) those who have the least amount of faith in their hearts.” Anas then said: As if I were just now looking at the fingers of Allah’s Apostle.”—Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 93, Hadith 600.
Despite their small size, mustard seeds have a big personality. They are used to spice up dishes around the world, can be crushed to make mustard, and are even get mentioned in the Quran: “And ˹even˺ if a deed is the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as a ˹vigilant˺ Reckoner” (Quran 21:47). The three main types are yellow or white, brown, and oriental, and each can be ground up and mixed with a liquid to create variations of the condiment sitting in refrigerators across the country. Yellow or white mustard seeds are the least spicy of the three varieties. They are used in the yellow mustard popular in North America, such as IFANCA® halal-certified American Garden U.S. Mustard. Both oriental mustard seeds and brown mustard seeds are spicier, although their uses differ. Oriental mustard is more commonly used in Asian countries for condiments and cooking oil, according to the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission. On the other hand, Dijon mustard and the appropriately named spicy brown mustard both come from brown mustard seeds.
Though originally native to Europe, mustard plants are now grown throughout the United States. In fact, wild mustard is so abundant in North America that the state of Michigan considers them a “noxious weed” due to their ability to proliferate rapidly. The plants are part of the family known as Brassicaceae or Cruciferae, which features other vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. Though the seeds are used to make bottled mustard, mustard greens are also an edible (and tasty!) part of the plant. Phoebe Lapine at Clean Plates describes their taste as having a “horseradish-like kick” and compares them to salad greens with a spicier flavor.
Both the leaves and seeds of a mustard plant come with a whole host of health benefits. Mustard leaves “contain significant amounts of calcium, copper, and vitamins C, A, and K,” describes Alina Petre, MS, RD at Healthline, “while their seeds are particularly rich in fiber, selenium, magnesium, and manganese.” Mustard greens, like many other leafy vegetables, are low in calories. According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) registry, there are a little over fifteen calories per cup of raw mustard greens. Even bottled yellow mustard is not too bad: the USDA ARS pins it at under ten calories per tablespoon.
Like other vegetables in the Cruciferae family, the mustard plant is a good source of glucosinolates like sinigrin, which Petre cites as the compound responsible for mustard’s bitter and spicy taste. These compounds are released when the plant is damaged, which occurs when a person chews a mustard seed or cuts up a mustard green in preparation for a meal. In an article for Advances in Botanical Research, M.H. Traka discusses the evidence that consumption of these compounds may reduce one’s risk of cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease. According to Anisha Mazumder et al. in an article for the journal Molecules, sinigrin is thought to work as an antioxidant, counter inflammation, fight bacteria and fungi, and promote wound healing.
The method and storage time for mustard depends on its form. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone at The Spruce Eats offers the following tips:
Worried about your mustard seeds going bad? Some ways to treat them for their use in a recipe include pickling, toasting, and grinding them. Toasting mustard seeds help alleviate some of their bitterness, says Christine Gallary at Kitchn. Ashley Mason at Bon Appétit’s Healthyish even recommends frying and adding them to salad, stews, and dressings.
So what are you waiting for? Set aside your ketchup for a bit and give mustard a chance.
Alison DeGuide is a content developer at IFANCA as well as the editor of Halal Consumer© magazine. She holds a master’s degree in public diplomacy from the University of Southern California where she also did her undergraduate studies.