Wild Mustard Creates Beautiful Views and Tastes Good, Too

Wild mustard makes for a beautiful sea of yellow.
Wild mustard makes for a beautiful sea of yellow. Photo: Julia Gaudinski

Thanks to the plentiful El Niño rains, the hills of California are greening up. But in many places, they are yellowing up, too. This is thanks to wild mustard, which you might have had in several forms for dinner last night. “Mustard” is the common name of the plant family known as Brassicaceae or Cruciferae, also called the cabbage family or crucifers. Cruciferae is the older name for the family and refers to the cross shape that is made by the four petals of their flowers. The wild yellow-flowered mustard you see while driving is from either the genus Brassica or Sinapis, and these two genera form the basis for most commercial mustard crops.

Wild mustard grows like a weed.
Wild mustard is also a weed that grows in disturbed areas and fallow fields. There are many types of mustard, but this one is most likely Brassica juncea. Photo: Julia Gaudinski

Mustard has been a very important part of the human diet since at least the Bronze Age. The sharp flavor of the seeds offers a unique opportunity to spice up our foods. Although it is native to western Europe, the Mediterranean, and temperate Asia, it has been spread by spice traders and conquering armies all over the world. In modern times, it is considered more important than all other spices except salt and pepper. It’s quite possible that you had black, brown, or white mustard seasoning your food in some way last night.

A blanket of wild mustard
A blanket of wild mustard. Photo: Julia Gaudinski

Chances are also good that several other parts of your dinner might have hailed from the mustard family. High in vitamin C, crucifers have been extensively bred for vegetables. Chinese kale, rutabaga, seakale, turnip, radish, watercress, horseradish, wasabi, and kohlrabi are all crucifers. Amazingly, several common dinner vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens, are all cultivars of just one species: Brassica oleracea. The genus Brassica has also been propagated for oil-producing plants, such as rapeseed, from which canola oil is made. So, even your fried food might owe its crispy goodness to a crucifer.

The next time you are munching on a piece of steamed broccoli, putting wasabi on that sushi, or eating fried chicken, think of those lush yellow fields that are brightly scattered about in spring and give a nod to the mighty mustard family and its contribution to your diet.

  1. Sources Used

About The Author

I really enjoy field trips. I love being in a cool place and having someone tell me about it. The problem is, you can’t always find a professor or park ranger-type to tell you all they know about the local rocks, plants, and history. So I decided to combine my love of things natural with mobile technology.

Related posts


  1. Kerry Hosley

    Not only is mustard beautiful, tasty and good for the soil, but for years my husband has run his 1991 Ford pickup on oil pressed from mustard seeds! He serves on the board of a Santa Cruz County business called Farm Fuel Inc which conducts research and develops mustard-related products for farmers and gardeners. FFI was initially started to develop a fuel farmers could grow themselves, but researchers soon found that the bi-product of pressing mustard seed has valuable properties as a soil treatment and amendment that can replace environmentally hazardous chemical fumigants. Check out the website to see more practical uses for mustard. http://farmfuelinc.com/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.