Mustard - Sinapis arvensis

Mustard - Sinapis arvensis

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Mustard, sinapis arvensis, is an annual herbaceous plant native to Europe, reaching 70-80 cm in height. It constitutes tufts of thin, rigid, ramified stems, which bear numerous dark green leaves, opaque, sessile, elongated oval, toothed, up to 15-20 cm long; from May to September at the apex of the stems numerous small bright yellow flowers bloom; in autumn the flowers give way to fruits: long pods containing small dark seeds.

Sinapis alba is very similar, but produces shorter pods with yellow seeds. With the seeds of the mustard, excellent sauces are prepared and used to accompany meat and vegetable dishes; the leaves can be eaten cooked and have a flavor similar to spinach; the newly germinated seeds are eaten in salads.

The leaves of all varieties can be harvested at any time and must be used as soon as possible in order to preserve all their aroma and freshness. The larger ones can be blanched and then combined with other vegetables or flavored dishes such as omelettes or omelettes.


Mustard is grown in very sunny areas, it does not like the shade; this plant dies when the cold arrives, so it should be planted at the beginning of spring, to collect the seeds at the end of summer; the small seeds can be stored immediately, or they must be kept in airtight containers after having dried them well.

The hedge is sown when in late spring, when the temperatures at night do not go below 10 ° C. Initially it is best to sow the sinapis arvensis in small containers, such as seedbeds or alveolar containers and jars to facilitate the first phase of growth. Subsequently, the mustard will be transplanted to bury it and continue cultivation.

Family, genus, speciesBrassicaceae, brassica nigra, alba, arvensis, juncea
Type of plantAnnual or biennial, Herbaceous, aromatic, horticultural
Maximum height and widthFrom persistent to semi-persistent
Maximum height and width150 x 70 cm
GrowthFast to medium
RusticityQuite to very rustic
ExposureFrom sun to partial shade
GroundNot demanding, but prefers rich, deep and clayey
LocationFull earth or pot
Soil moistureAlways fresh
UseAromatic zone, natural borders, green manure, forage


Let's remember to water the mustard only in case of long periods of drought, usually these plants are satisfied with the rains. It does not need additional fertilizations, especially if it is planted in garden soil rich in organic matter.


Mustard plants prefer clayey soils, and do not tolerate sandy and very drained soils. The first period of growth mainly requires nitrogen but without requiring excessive quantities. If you plant mustard in the ground, no special fertilizations will be necessary. If, on the other hand, you choose pot cultivation you will need to get a sufficiently large pot and good quality soil. The minimum diameter of the pot for growing mustard is 20 cm and the soil to be used must be a neutral soil with a good percentage of porous stones to improve the structure and drainage of the soil.

SowingFrom February to September, climb for annuals
Collection of leavesFrom April to December
Seed collectionFrom early autumn


The multiplication of mustard takes place mainly by seed: sow in early spring directly at home or in containers as described above. The main varieties of mustard that are grown are white mustard, black mustard and wild mustard. The name of the first two varieties is due to the color of their branches. Wild mustard is the species with the most delicate flavor and aroma but with a slightly more rustic growth.

Parasites and diseases

Speaking of mustard diseases and pests, it should be noted that aphids often ruin the shoots and flower buds, compromising the production of seeds. The wrong climatic conditions of cultivation can often ruin the plant and induce a decay that facilitates the attack of parasites and the entry of diseases.

It is a generally resistant plant, but over time, due to intensive cultivation in some areas, some pathogens have proved insidious.

In particular, brown mustard is sensitive topowdery mildew, especially in late spring and early autumn. We always choose a well-ventilated and open position, avoiding as much as possible to wet the leaves during irrigation.

The small plants and the base of the adult ones are very palatable for snails and slugs. We create barriers with ash, egg shells or sand. Useful are the beer traps.

Another enemy is the alticini, beetles that particularly affect the Brassicaceae. They cause holes in the leaves which can debilitate the plant. The ideal is to protect the specimens with very dense mesh nets.

Seed collection and storage

The seeds are harvested in late summer-early autumn. You have to proceed before they are fully ripe and dark. Cut the stems at the base, collect them in bunches and place them to dry in a shady, dry and airy area. We spread a cloth underneath in order to collect the grains that should begin to fall. Once everything is dry, shake it and beat it with a stick to help the seeds come out.

They keep very well for at least two years, especially if closed in airtight jars away from light and heat.

Uses in the kitchen

Mustard has been known and used for food and medicinal purposes since ancient times. The sauce to which it gives its name is very popular all over the world: it is the most consumed after ketchup and mayonnaise. It is used in particular in French, English (and consequently American) cuisine, but can vary both in appearance and in ingredients and in the overall final flavor, more or less pungent.

The seeds are also widely used in Asian cuisine. Pounded in a mortar, they become an indispensable ingredient for the typical Indian spice melange. They can be sautéed whole in a pan and used to flavor vegetables, salads and meats.

They are often an essential element in the preparation of preserves in oil and vinegar (for example, cauliflower, cucumber and cabbage). In Japan and Korea a very spicy sauce (karashi or yeongyeoja) is obtained to accompany soups, ravioli and meat.

Mostarda is very famous in Italy (from Cremona, Voghera, Mantua, Vicenza): it is candied fruit or vegetables (or reduced in compote) flavored with essential oil or spicy mustard powder. It goes well with boiled meats and meats in general, or with cheeses. The name mustard (moutarde in French) refers to the grape must, from which at one time flavored compotes were obtained with finely pounded seeds.

GuySpeciesHeight and color of flowersUsable partsAromaOther usesOther characteristicsAdvice
AnnualWhite mustard (Sinapis alba)50 to 90 cm, yellow flowersSeeds, flowers and leavesGently spicedImproves the texture of compact soils

Excellent as forage for dairy animals

Fast growth,

even in winter

Carry out gradual sowing because the seedlings run out quickly
Black mustard (Brassica nigra)Up to 1 m, yellow flowersSeeds, leaves and flowersVery spicyGood green manure plant
(Sinapis arvensis)Up to 80 cm

Bright yellow flowers

Leaves and flowersSlightly spicy. Good in salads or just searedUseful in natural borders to attract pollinating insects and butterfliesIt blooms from spring to autumn, in the South all year round.

Melliferous plant

It can become invasive.
BiennialBrown mustard (Brassica juncea)40 to 150 cm

Yellow flowers in bunches

Leaves and seedsSpicy taste like that of nigraFrom green manureFast growing, large seeds

With the nigra it is the most used for the production of extracts and Dijon mustard

Can be grown as an annual (to collect leaves) or as a biennial (for seeds)

Mustard - Sinapis arvensis: Other uses

White mustard has been known since ancient times and is also cultivated as a fodder plant as the animals that feed on it produce a rich and very tasty milk. Their flowers also attract many pollinating insects, such as bees, bumblebees and butterflies. It is therefore a good idea to always grow some specimens near the garden in order to obtain an abundant production. It is also very popular as a green manure plant: thanks to its deep and branched roots it is able to make clayey soils softer and more aerated. The debris can then be incorporated into the soil enriching it with organic substance.

In the garden it is also useful for removing nematodes: it therefore combines very well with potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines (which are often victims of them). However, the proximity of other brassicas such as cabbage, radishes and rocket should be avoided. It also contrasts with legumes.

Video: Comment cuisiner la moutarde des champs Sinapis arvensis