There has been considerable debate surrounding the Mustard plant. Most gardeners have no idea if Mustard is a plant, a bush, or a tree. This article looks at Mustard in detail to clarify its exact nature and what it grows to become.
To overcome this mystery, we need to go down the pages of history briefly. The Mustard seed is a subject of many cultures and religions. The earliest recorded times of Mustard seeds date back to 3000 BCE where Indians and Sumerians used it as a spice.
The Greeks and Romans have also mentioned the plant numerous times in biblical writings. Ancient physicians, like Hippocrates, used the Mustard seed for medicinal purposes.
Today, the Mustard seed is the largest spice by volume in world trade. Most gardeners and consumers use it as a spice or condiment in several snacks. So, what exactly is Mustard? Keep reading.
The Mustard Tree ( Salvadora perisica)
The Mustard tree is native to Persia, better known as Iran today. Other places you will find it include the East Indies (present-day Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines), Southeast Asia, and Northern Africa.
It also grows well in the US under hardiness zones of 7 through 11. Mustard thrives best in hot, arid climates with well-draining sandy soils but could also do well in other soil types.
The plant loves full sun, and you don’t want to plant it in humid climates where it could pick up mold and suffer stunted growth.
You should also avoid planting the tree near septic systems or cisterns, thanks to its deep penetrating roots that could cause damage.
The mustard tree grows to a low of 6 feet and a maximum of 20 feet. Its branches spread 20 feet wide and grow in a multiple stem pattern with a drooping branch structure.
The tree foliage is oval and yellowish-green with a succulent feel. It bears tiny yellowish flowers every year that mature into ripe ½ inch diameter berries.
Is The Mustard A Plant, Bush, Or A Tree?
Generally, plants are classified in the kingdom Plantae and could be anything between trees, shrubs, herbs, bushes, grass, ferns, or mosses.
For the record, Mustard is a plant, a tree, and also a bush. But the one typically grown in most gardens can be referred to as the Mustard tree or Mustard plant.
Mustard seeds are usually white and black/brown. Both colors of seeds can produce a tall tree that can grow up to 20ft tall.
However, some white-colored seeds produce a leafy plant that is commonly grown in home gardens and is usually referred to as the Mustard plant. It is also sometimes incorrectly called a bush due to its shape and size.
Notably, the Mustard bush is an altogether different plant that you will find growing in Africa and is also referred to as the African Mustard Bush. It’s different from the Mustard tree or the Mustard plant you could grow in your garden.
It’s mainly grown as feed to livestock and also has some medicinal value. The African Mustard Bush grows to 13 feet tall and doesn’t fit well with home gardens.
What Does Mustard Seed Turn Into?
We have looked at the Mustard seed in ancient texts and the fact that it has been used as a spice for a long time. Your next concern could be what Mustard seed grows into or from what plant you get Mustard seeds.
As alluded to in biblical writings, Mustard seeds are the tiniest of seeds but grow large enough to be like a tree or rather a tree with many tiny seeds that birds find useful.
What Are The Different Types of Mustard Seeds?
Different Mustard tree species produce varying seeds. Common examples of Mustard tree species include the White mustard tree (Sinapis alba), the black mustard tree (Brassica nigra), and the brown mustard tree (Brassica juncea).
The White Mustard tree is typically grown in North Africa, Mediterranean Europe, and the Middle East. Seeds of the white mustard tree are round in shape, and gardeners use them for pickling and flavoring.
White Mustard is also used as a cover crop in Europe.
Seeds of the Black Mustard Seed are hard and round. They are spicier compared to seeds of White Mustard. Black Mustard seed is commonly grown in Chile, Argentina, the US, and some European countries.
The Brown Mustard tree produces seeds that are similar to the Black Mustard seed. It’s native to the foothills of the Himalayas but grown in the United Kingdom, the US, India, Canada, Bangladesh, and Denmark.
The seeds have less flavor and are commonly used in fried foods.
Is The Mustard Plant Edible?
Yes, you could eat any part of the Mustard plant as food. Leaves, flowers, and stems can be eaten raw or cooked.
Mustard seed is used fresh as a spice and as a condiment when dried.
Proper cultivation practices require that you start the mustard plant or tree from soaked seed. Grow them in nursery pots for three years before transplanting them to the garden.
Before transplanting, ensure the bed is broken loose and free of weeds to establish roots. Maintain the Mustard plants at a spacing of 12 – 15 feet apart except in areas with high saline soils or winds where planting them together might be of the essence.
You want to maintain a weekly watering regime during summer to promote root growth. Avoid watering the plant in the fall of the first year to encourage taproot establishment that will help support the plant in subsequent drought periods.
Mustard is everything you thought it to be; a plant, a bush, and a tree.
The Mustard tree grows to a height of 6-20 feet and is associated with many cultures and ancient physicians.
The mustard plant, also known as leafy mustard, is grown in gardens and is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a bush due to its shape and size.
The Mustard Bush is neither of the above. It grows mainly in Africa and is named the African Mustard Bush. It’s primarily used to feed livestock and doesn’t suit gardens.
We hope this article helps solve the mystery surrounding Mustard.