Black Mustard Yellow Mustard
Mustard seeds are about 1 mm in diameter, and may be coloured from yellowish white to black. They are important spices in many regional cuisines. The seeds can come from three different plants: black mustard, brown Indian mustard and white or yellow mustard. In the Indian subcontinent they are often used whole, and are quickly fried in oil until they pop to impart a flavour to the oil.
Whole white mustard seed is used in pickling spice and in spice mixtures for cooking meats and seafood. In Yarlpanam and South India, whole seeds are fried in ghee or oil until the seeds pop, producing a milder nutty flavour that is useful as a garnish or seasoning for other curry dishes. The brown seed is also pounded with other spices in the preparation of curry powders and pastes. In the West there are many ready-made types of mustard in use - from mild and sweet to sharp and strong. They can be smooth or coarse and flavoured with a wide variety of herbs, spices and liquids.
Historically, mustard has always held an important place in medicine. Although the volatile oil of mustard is a powerful irritant capable of blistering skin, in dilution as a liniment or poultice it soothes, creating a warm sensation. Mustard plasters are still used today as counter-irritants. Over the years mustard has been prescribed for scorpion stings and snake bites, epilepsy, toothache, bruises, stiff neck, rheumatism, colic and respiratory troubles. It is used to induce vomiting and as an irritant that draws the blood to the surface of the skin to warm and comfort stiff muscles. It is useful in bath water or as a foot bath.