December 13, 2012

Herb & Spice Fact of the Day

Mustard Seeds are small round seeds obtained from a variety of mustard plants. The small (1-2 mm) seeds range in color from pale yellow to black. Each of the 3 major varieties of mustard produce pungent aromatic seeds with the mildest being the white mustard. 

In Christian mythology, Jesus used the mustard seed as a parable for the kingdom of God. He mentions hows it initially starts small but grows to be the biggest of all garden plants. 

Mustard seeds are used as a whole or ground spice and are often used also to extract mustard oil, which features prominently in Southern Indian cuisine. With its excellent preserving qualities for foods and is often used for pickling and to make the often used condiment - mustard. 

The seeds have 46-48% oil and close to 43.6% protein, so are nutritional super-powers, but are also packed with calories so should be used sparingly (~500 calories/100g). The seeds are high in essential oils as well as plant sterols such as brassicasterol, campesterol , sitosterol, avenasterol and stigmasterol. They also contain sinigrin, myrosin, erucic, eicosenoic, oleic and palmitic acids. Although rich in calories, they are also well packed with fiber and are actually recommended in cholesterol and weight reduction programs. The seeds also flavonoid antioxidants such as carotenes, zeaxanthin and lutein and have small amount of Vitamins A, C and vitamin K and E (tocopherol-γ). 

In traditional medicine, mustard seeds have traditionally been used to relieve muscle pain, rheumatism and arthritic pain. In India, mustard oil is applied over scalp and is believed to stimulate hair growth. and in traditional medicine, the ground seeds (meal) have been shown to act as a laxative, a stimulant of the gastric lining and have been shown to increase intestinal secretions.

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