How to Grow and Harvest Mustard from Seed to Sauce

mustard blossom and seeds

Mustard is arguably the healthiest condiment, and it's easy to grow! The variety and hardiness of these plants make them great choices for farmers of all experience levels. They blossom cheerily, and some strains yield seeds in as little as 60 days, plus mustard greens make a nutritious bonus ingredient throughout the growing cycle. Left to reach maturity, mustard plants will sow plenty of seeds, ensuring continuity while providing more than enough to make tasty sauces.

If you're wondering whether growing and making your mustard is worth the effort, it is. A jar of mustard can go for five to ten dollars, as of this writing. A dollar’s worth of mustard seeds can provide you with more mustard than can fill your pantry shelf, plus greens for salads and sautées.

Growing Mustard

mustard blossom

The mustard plant is resilient and will grow in pretty much any type of soil. It's also resistant to many of the common pests and plant diseases. Still, if it can choose, mustard prefers rich, well-prepared soil with a Ph value of above 6.0. It will do best in the availability of constant moisture and will thrive in cool weather of about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If given these optimal conditions, the plant should sprout between the fifth and the tenth day after seeding. In colder weather, the seeds will take longer to germinate.

Within one month of germination, the mustard plant will have developed and grown a fully mature canopy of sorts—this quality makes mustard a great cover crop.

Five to 10 days later, it will start budding. This flowering period often takes between one and two weeks, though sometimes it may take longer. In the subsequent weeks, pods will begin to develop from the flowers. Once the pods turn from green to brown or tan, then the seeds will have attained maturity.

The Harvesting Process

mustard seeds in a mortar with pestle

The seeds must be harvested before they become too brittle, otherwise the pods will shatter and seeds will spread into places where they're not welcome. Scientists appear to agree that the optimal moisture content for the storage of mustard seeds is 10 percent. If the seeds contain too much moisture, they're likely to get spoiled in storage.

An easy way to ensure this doesn't happen is to check whether the seeds are damp or pulpy before putting them into storage. If they are, they'll need to be dried first. They can be placed on a fine mesh screen. As an alternative, the entire plant can be cut down then the top covered with a bag before it is hung upside down. Once the seeds dry, they will fall harmlessly into the bag. Ordinarily, the process of drying takes around two weeks.

After you have grown, harvested, and dried your mustard seeds, the next step is preparing and flavoring your mustard to your preferred taste. It is fairly easy to do so and all that is required besides your mustard seeds is cold water. The mustard seeds will need to be ground into a fine powder to release their spice.

grinding mustard seeds into powder

How to Process Mustard Seeds at Home

For this, a pestle and mortar would be most appropriate. However, if they are unavailable an easier and less vigorous method exists. The seeds should be soaked in cold water for one or two days. They'll become softened and visibly swollen.

mustard seeds and sauces

Once they're nice and goopy, put them in a food processor without separating the seeds from the water. Use a low or pulse setting to whip it into coarse mustard. If you would like a smoother texture on your mustard then you can run it through a fine sieve to achieve your desired results.

food processor

Adding Flavor to Your Mustard

After a few days, homemade mustard will begin to lose its kick. To prevent this, an acid is added. Vinegar is most commonly used although lemon juice and cider are also relatively common. This allows the mustard to retain its flavor indefinitely if properly stored. Salt can be added to accentuate the flavor and to further preserve the mustard.

lemons and lemon juice

Other herbs and spices can be added in line with your tastes and preferences. People with a sweet tooth often add honey to their mustard while tarragon is also highly recommended. Others add wine or beer. In short, you can seldom go wrong with mustard and the best thing is to keep trying out different flavors to see which ones you like best.

It is advisable to let your homemade mustard stay for a few days before you use it as the flavor tends to get stronger with time. While mustard has a relatively long shelf life, keeping it in a refrigerator will prolong it and ensure you get to enjoy your homemade creation longer.