Mustard





The wild Mustard (Brassica Sinapistrum), a Cruciferous herb

commonly called Chedlock, from leac, a weed, and kiede, to

annoy, grows abundantly as a product of waste places, and in newly

disturbed ground.



The Field Mustard (Arvensis) is Charlock, or Brassock; its

botanical term, Sinapis, being referable to the Celtic nap, as a

general name for plants of the rape kind. Mustard was formerly

known as senvie in English. It has been long cultivated and

improved, especially in Darham.



Now we have for commercial and officinal purposes two varieties of

the cultivated plant, the black Mustard (Sinapis nigra), and the

white Mustard (Brassica, or Sinapis alba). There is also a plain

plant of the hedges, [376] Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale)

which is a mere rustic Simple. It is the black Mustard which

yields by its seeds the condiment of our tables, and the

pungent yellow flour which we employ for the familiar stimulating

poultice, or sinapism. This black Mustard is a tall smooth plant,

having entire leaves, and smooth seed pods, being now grown for

the market on rich alluvial soil chiefly in Lincolnshire and

Yorkshire. In common with its kindred plants it gets its name from

mustum, the must, or newly fermented grape juice, and

ardens, burning, because as a condiment, Mustard flour was

formerly mixed with home-made wine and sugar. The virtues of

black Mustard depend on the acrid volatile oil contained in its seeds.

These when unbruised and macerated in boiling water yield only a

tasteless mucilage which resides in their skin. But when bruised

they develop a very active, pungent, and highly stimulative principle

with a powerful penetrating odour which makes the eyes water.

From thence is perhaps derived the generic name of the herb

Sinapis (Para tou sinesthai tous hopous, because it irritates the

eyes). This active principle contains sulphur abundantly, as is

proved by the discoloration of a silver spoon when left in the

mustard-pot, the black sulphuret of silver being formed. The

chemical basis of black Mustard is sinnigrin and its acid myronic.

The acridity of its oil is modified in the seeds by combination with

another fixed oil of a bland nature which can be readily separated by

pressure, then the cake left after the expression of this fixed oil is

far more pungent than the seeds. The bland oil expressed from the hulls

of the black seeds after the flour has been sifted away, promotes the

growth of the hair, and may be used with benefit externally for

[377] rheumatism. Whitehead's noted Essence of Mustard is made

with spirits of turpentine and rosemary, with which camphor and the

farina of black Mustard seed are mixed. This oil is very little

affected by frost or the atmosphere; and it is therefore specially

prized by clock makers, and for instruments of precision.



A Mustard poultice from the farina of black Mustard made into a

paste with, or without wheaten flour commingled, constitutes one of

the most powerful external stimulating applications we can employ.

It quickly induces a sharp burning pain, and it excites a destructive

outward inflammation which enters much more into the true skin

than that which is caused by an old fashioned blister of Spanish fly.

This has therefore superseded the latter as more promptly and

reliably effective for the speedy relief of all active internal

congestions. If the application of Mustard has caused sores, these

may be best soothed and healed by lime-water liniment.



Mustard flour is an infallible antiseptic and sterilising agent. It is

a capital deodoriser; and if rubbed thoroughly into the bands and nails

will take away all offensive stink when corrupt or dead tissues have

been manipulated.



If a tablespoonful of Mustard flour is added to a pint of tepid water,

and taken at a draught it operates briskly as a stimulating and sure

emetic. Hot water poured on bruised seeds of black Mustard makes

a good stimulating footbath for helping to throw off a cold, or to

dispel a headache; and meantime the volatile oil given out as an

aroma, if not too strong, proves soporific. This oil contains erucic,

and sinapoleic acids. When properly mixed with spirit of wine,

twenty-four drops of the oil to an ounce of spirit, the essential oil

forms, [378] by reason of its stimulating properties and its contained

sulphur, a capital liniment for use in rheumatism, or for determining

blood to the surface from deeper parts. Caution should be used not

to apply a plaster made altogether of Mustard flour to the delicate

skin of young children, or females, because ulcers difficult to heal

may be the result, or even gangrenous destruction of the deeper skin

may follow. The effects of a Mustard bath, at about ninety degrees,

are singular; decided chills are felt at first throughout the whole

body, with some twitchings at times of the limbs; and later on, even

after the skin surface has become generally red, this sense of

coldness persists, until the person leaves the water, when reaction

becomes quickly established, with a glowing heat and redness of the

whole skin.



For obstinate hiccough a teacupful of boiling water should be

poured on a teaspoonful of Mustard flour, and taken when sufficiently

cool, half at first, and the other half in ten minutes if still

needed. For congestive headache a small roll of Mustard paper or

Mustard leaf may be introduced into one or both nostrils, and left

there for a minute or more. It will relieve the headache promptly,

and may perhaps induce some nose bleeding.



Admixture with vinegar checks the development of the pungent

principles of Mustard. This used to be practised for the table in

England, but is now discontinued, though some housewives add a

little salt to their made Mustard.



Claims for the introduction of Mustard at Durham in 1720, have

been raised in favour of a Mrs. Clements, but they cannot be

substantiated. Shakespeare in the Taming of the Shrew makes

Grumio ask Katherine What say you to a piece of beef and

Mustard? and speaks, in Henry IV., of Poins' wit being as thick

[379] as Tewkesbury Mustard; whilst Fuller in his Worthies of

England, written only a very few years after Shakespeare's death,

says the best Mustard in England is made at Tewkesbury in the

county of Gloucester. Coles observes (1657), in Gloucestershire

about Teuxbury they grind Mustard seed and make it up into balls,

which are brought to London and other remote places as being the

best that the world affords. George the First restored the popularity

of Mustard by his approval of it. Prior to 1720 no such condiment as

Mustard in its present form was used at table in this country. It

is not improbable that the Romans, who were great eaters of

Mustard-seed pounded and steeped in new wine, brought the condiment

with them to our shores, and taught the ancient Britons how to prepare

it. At Dijon in France where the best mixed continental Mustard is

made, the condiment is seasoned with various spices and savouries,

such as Anchovies, Capers, Tarragon, Catsup of Walnuts, or

Mushrooms, and the liquors of other pickles. Philip the Bold

granted armorial ensigns (1382) to Dijon, with the motto moult me

tarde (I wish for ardently). The merchants of Sinapi copied this on

their wares, the middle word of the motto being accidentally

effaced. A well-known couplet of lines supposed to occur in

Hudibras (but not to be found there), has long baffled the research

of quotation hunters:



Sympathy without relief

Is like to Mustard without beef.



Mustard flour moistened with a little water into a paste has the

singular property of dispelling the odours of musk, camphor, and

the fetid gum resins. For deodorising vessels which have contained

the essences of turpentine, creasote, assafetida, or other such drugs,

it [380] will answer to introduce some bruised Mustard-seed, and

then a little water, shaking the vessel well for a minute or more, and

afterwards rinsing it out with plenty of water.



The white Mustard grows when uncultivated on waste ground with

large yellow flowers, and does not yield under any circumstances a

pungent oil like the black Mustard. It is a hirsute plant, with stalked

leaves and hairy seed pods; and when produced in our gardens its

young leaves are eaten as a salad, or as Mustard, with Cress.



When in the leaf, says John Evelyn in his Acetaria, Mustard,

especially in young seedling plants, is of incomparable effect to

quicken and revive the spirits, strengthening the memory, expelling

heaviness, preventing the vertiginous palsy, and a laudable cephalic,

besides being an approved antiscorbutic. He tells further that the

Italians, in making Mustard as a condiment, mingle lemon and

orange peel with the (black) seeds. In the composition of a sallet

the Mustard (a noble ingredient) should be of the best Tewkesbury

or else of the soundest and weightiest Yorkshire seed, tempered a

little by the fire to the consistence of a pap with vinegar, in which

some shavings of the horseradish have been steeped. Then, cutting

an onion, and putting it into a small earthen gally-pot, pour the

Mustard over it and close it very well with a cork. Note.--The

seeds should have been pounded in a mortar, or bruised with a

polished cannon bullet in a large wooden bowl dish.



The active principle of white Mustard is Sinapin, and the seed

germinates so rapidly that it has been said a salad of this may be

grown while the joint of meat is being roasted for dinner. Seeds of

the white Mustard have been employed medicinally from early

times. [381] Hippocrates advised their use both internally, and as a

counter-irritating poultice made with vinegar. When swallowed

whole in teaspoonful doses three or four times a day, they exercise a

laxative effect mechanically, and are voided without undergoing any

perceptible change, only the outer skin being a little softened and

mucilaginous. An infusion of the seed taken medicinally will relieve

chronic bronchitis, and confirmed rheumatism: also for a relaxed

sore throat a gargle of Mustard seed tea will be found of service.



A French expression for trifling one's time away is s'amuser a la

moutarde. The essential oil is an admirable deodorant and

disinfectant, especially on an emergency.



But the grain of Mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds (Mark

iv., 31), which when it is grown up is the greatest among herbs,

was a tree of the East, very different from our Mustard, and bearing

branches of real wood.



The Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium, or Erisymum) grows by our

roadsides, and on waste grounds, where it seems to possess a

peculiar aptitude for collecting and retaining dust. The pods are

downy, close pressed to the stem, and the leaves hairy with their

points turned backwards. It is named by the French St. Barbara's

Hedge Mustard, and the Singer's Plant, herbe au chantre, or

herbe au chanteur. Up to the time of Louis XIV, it was

considered an infallible remedy for loss of the voice. Racine writing

to Boileau recommended the syrup of Erysimum to him when

visiting the waters of Bourbonne in order to be cured of

voicelessness. Si les eaux de Bourbonne ne vous guerissent pas de

votre extinction de voix, le sirop d'Erysimum vous guerirait

infalliblement. Ne l'oubliez pas, et a l'occasion vingt grammes par

litre d'eau en tisane [382] matin et soir. It used to be called Flix,

or Flux weed from being given with benefit in dysentery, a disease

formerly known as the Flix. This herb has been commended for

chronic coughs and hoarseness, using the juice mixed with an equal

quantity of honey, or sugar. It has been designated the most

excellent of all remedies for diseases of the throat, especially in

ulcerated sore throats, which it will serve to cure when all the advice

of physicians and surgeons has proved ineffectual. A strong

infusion of the herb is excellent in asthmas, and it may be made

with sugar into a syrup which will keep all the year round. The

Hedge Mustard contains chemically a soft resin, and a sulphuretted

volatile oil. This herb with the vervain is supposed to form Count

Mattaei's noted nostrum Febrifugo.





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