What is a mustard plant?

What Does a Mustard Plant Look Like?

Mustard Flower

One of the best ways to identify a mustard plant is through the flower. Whether yellow or white, if it has four petals and six stamens you know it is a mustard. The name ‘cruciferous’ refers to this plant family’s four-petaled flowers which form a cross.

The six stamens are arranged in an ‘H’ like shape with four long and two short. There is a pistil that appears as a fuzzy staff upright in the middle of the flower.

Sinapis Alba

The seed of any mustard plant can be crushed and combined with vinegar and spices to make the familiar condiment by the same name. Different varieties of mustard create slightly different tasting spreads.

Sinapis alba is yellow or white mustard. The color refers to the seeds which are pitted and yellow or white. This Mediterranean native is where most of the condiment mustard comes from. This plant grows to about 3 feet in height, displays scattered branches and has irregular lobed leaves. The yellow flowers have four petals and the seedpods are tapered and bristly. The best ways to identify a member of the mustard family are:

  • Yellow or White flowers
  • Flowers have 4 petals in cross shape
  • 6 Stamens in H shape
  • Seed pods are tapered
  • Seeds are round 1-2mm diameter

Brassica Juncea

Native to Asia, this is commonly called brown mustard, chinese mustard, canola, or leaf mustard. This is a common variety grown in Russia and Asia not only as a spice but as a source of cooking oil and greens. The seeds of certain varieties of Brassica juncea are crushed to produce canola oil.

Some mustard green cultivars we are familiar with belong to the Juncea genera such as Mizuna, Crispafolia, and Takana. The flowers of juncea are yellow and similar to other varieties. The leaves, however, are varying.

Mizuna produces highly frilled and textured greens often picked young to add texture to salads. Crispafolia, on the other hand, has smooth leaves that are broad and thick. Brown mustard seed pods contain up to 20 seeds compared to Sinapis alba which contains roughly 6.

Brassica Nigra

This type of mustard is native to most of Africa and parts of India and Asia. While not cultivated as much as the other varieties, it is still a highly prized crop. The seeds of nigra are dark brown to black. They are also used as a spice, most often found in curries and as accents in gourmet mustards.

Traditionally the seed was also crushed to produce an oil used for cooking, and the leaves are eaten as a green. The nigra also has yellow four-petaled flowers. The plant is lankier than the other varieties and the leaves are smooth but toothed.


mustardOverview of how mustard is made.Contunico © ZDF Enterprises GmbH, MainzSee all videos for this article

Mustard, any of several herbs belonging to the mustard family of plants, Brassicaceae (Cruciferae), or the condiment made from these plants’ pungent seeds. The leaves and swollen leaf stems of mustard plants are also used, as greens, or potherbs. The principal types are white, or yellow, mustard (Sinapis alba), a plant of Mediterranean origin; and brown, or Indian, mustard (Brassica juncea), which is of Himalayan origin. The latter species has almost entirely replaced the formerly used black mustard (Brassica nigra), which was unsuitable for mechanized cropping and which now occurs mainly as an introduced weed. Both white and brown mustard are grown as spring-sown annual crops whose dry seeds are harvested in early autumn. From very small seedlings, the plants grow rapidly and enter a phase of dense flowering; the blooms have an intense yellow colour. The plants reach their full height of 1.5 to 2 metres (5 to 61/2 feet) as their flowers fade and after numerous green seedpods appear on their branches. The pods of brown mustard contain up to 20 seeds each, those of white mustard contain up to 8 seeds. Mustard plants are easy and inexpensive to grow; they flourish on many different types of soil, suffer from unusually few insect pests or plant diseases, and tolerate extremes of weather without serious harm.

Salinas, California: mustardField of mustard in flower in Salinas, California, U.S.Thomas J. Styczynski—CLICK/ChicagoBritannica Quiz Pass the Mustard: Fact or Fiction? Mustard is an ingredient in traditional medicine.

The use of mustard seeds as a spice has been known from the earliest recorded times and is described in Indian and Sumerian texts dating back to 3000 bce. Mustard plants are mentioned frequently in Greek and Roman writings and in the Bible. In the New Testament, the tiny mustard seed is a symbol of faith. Mustard seed was used medicinally by Hippocrates, among other ancient physicians. During the 20th century the use of mustard as a spice or condiment has grown to the extent that it is by far the largest spice by volume in world trade. Mustard is unusual among spices in that it is mainly grown in the temperate regions of the world, principally on the Canadian and U.S. Great Plains, in Hungary and in Britain, and in lesser amounts in other countries. In the main producing countries, the crop production of mustard is fully mechanized.

Mustard seeds, both white and brown, are nearly globular in shape, finely pitted, odourless when whole, and pungent-tasting. White mustard seeds are light yellow in colour and about 2.5 mm (1/10 inch) in diameter; brown mustard seeds are about the same size but are a darker yellow in colour. The seeds of both types contain similar constituents: about 30 to 40 percent vegetable oil, a slightly smaller proportion of protein, and a strong enzyme called myrosin. When dry or when ground into a flour, the seeds are odourless, but when the seed is chewed or when the flour is mixed with water, a chemical reaction between two of the constituents within mustard, an enzyme and a glucoside, produces an oil that is not present as such in the plant. In brown mustard this action yields the volatile oil of mustard, which has a pungent, irritating odour and an acrid taste. In white mustard the result is sinalbin mustard oil, a nonvolatile oil that has very little odour but produces a sensation of heat on the tongue.

As a condiment, mustard is sold in three forms: as seeds, as dry powder that is freshly mixed with water for each serving to obtain the most aroma and flavour, and prepared as a paste with other spices or herbs, vinegar or wine, and starch or flour to tone down the sharpness. The differing flavours of white and brown mustard are used in different condiments; the pungent brown is used in French-type paste mustards, and the white is used in milder American- or German-type pastes, while both types are used in English mustard products. Mustard is widely used as a condiment with various foods, particularly cold meats, sausages, and salad dressings. It is also used as an ingredient in mayonnaises, sauces, and pickles. Mustard plasters were formerly used in medicine for their counterirritant properties in treating chest colds and other ailments.

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Brown mustard, which is related to rapeseed, is grown as a source of vegetable oil and is an important crop for this purpose in northern India, Pakistan, China, southern Russia, and Kazakhstan. The oil is used for food or for industrial purposes, with the residual cake used for animal feed.

Wild Mustard

The first of the wild mustards is up. The yellow flowers providing a striking blaze of color in the green carpet of spring. There are a number of wild mustards that are edible, medicinal and have a utilitarian use. The first to appear is Brassica nigra or Black Mustard. Some older farmers eradicate this plant as they say it makes grazing livestock sick. I have found that horses, cows and goats eat it before it flowers and seem to suffer no side effects. Since the seed can be irritating to some people’s skin, eyes and noses perhaps Mustard is only a problem when grazing animals eat it once it has reached maturity.

The leaves are shaped much like domesticated Mustard. Unlike their domestic cousin, wild mustard leaves are smoother and less fuzzy.

The leaves are quite tasty and can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. This plant is very prolific. The leaves can be dried as can the young stems. Adding dried Mustard to soup and stew and as a colorful addition to eggs is one way to get nutrients during the winter. The flower petals are also colorful. The bright yellow color remains after they are dried. They can be added to wildcrafted flours, sprinkled on potato’s, eggs and used as saffron. The seed is dried and ground providing a pepper like spice. The whole seed can be used when making pickles and relish. Adding cold water to the ground or crushed seed makes it hotter than it already is. If you have a press, the seeds will yield an edible and burnable oil. It takes a lot of seeds to produce a small amount of oil but wild mustard is so prolific it is easy to gather enough to make oil for cooking or lighting.

The maturity of Wild Mustard will vary as plants located only a few yards away will be younger or older depending on how much sun they receive. This plant is growing next to a young Milfoil plant, (Yarrow.) There are other Milfoil plants less than 10 feet away that are younger than these while other Mustard plants growing a few feet away are closer to harvesting for seed.

The important medicinal use of mustard is its heating and blood vessel dilating properties. When crushed or ground the seed is mixed with a small amount of water making a paste. This paste is spread on flannel or cotton cloth and placed cloth down-herb up on the chest, sore joints or anywhere there is swelling and pain. Mustard plasters were once the standard treatment for chest colds and croup. Keep in mind that some people are sensitive to Mustard. Applying a thick or large amount might cause a localized rash where it touches the skin. Mustard opens blood vessels allowing the circulatory system to draw out toxins and letting blood flow increase. Like Hot Pepper and Cayenne Pepper, Mustard can be used to reduce the pain of headaches and migraines when taken as a tea or encapsulated. Mustard vapors, made by putting a few teaspoons of ground Mustard seed in a bowl, pouring hot water over it, and placing your face over the bowl with a towel to keep in the steam is helpful in clearing sinuses. Remember to keep your eyes closed as the vapors can be irritating to sensitive eye tissues.

Mustard provides color in the brown and green landscape in early spring.

The oil from Mustard can also be used as a lubricant as it is semi-drying. While it will thicken it never really dries. The plant produces a weak, semi-permanent dye. The flowers will produce a yellowish green dye. It is also semi-permanent. The most useful aspect of Mustard is as green manure. Green manure is a plant that has a quick growing period that is turned back into the soil to enrich it and to create a better balanced soil. I have heard of people who live in sandy regions that plant Spinach and Mustard together to produce soil that will support most food crops like corn, peas and beans. The plants are allowed to reach maturity then turned back into the soil. A second or third planting can be worked into the soil in one growing season. Paint Mustard oil on items you do not want dogs to chew on or cats to scratch on. Many commercially made products for this purpose use Oil of Mustard. The flowers have a pleasing scent but it doesn’t remain once dried and it takes a large handful to enjoy the fragrance inside.

These plants are more mature. Note the seed pods forming under the flower tops. These will be ready for seed harvest in a few days.

Wild Mustards are hardy plants and seem to grow in all areas. Wet, dry, sandy, and loam. They grow quickly and are frost and cold tolerant.

Brassica kaber var. pinnatifida, wild mustard

Family: Mustard, Brassicaceae.

Habitat: Wasteland, roadsides, grain and other fields crops, primarily in northern Ohio.

Life cycle: Annual annual or summer annual.

Growth Habit: 1-2 feet high, branched and erect.

Leaves: Alternate, 2-7 inches long. Lower leaves have petioles and are irregularly lobed and toothed with bristly hairs; upper leaves are smaller and may not be lobed; petioles lacking or short.

Stem: Branched near top, bristly.

Flower: June – October. 1/2 inch, bright yellow, four-petal flowers borne in small terminal clusters.

Fruit: Slender, slightly curved, smooth seedpod about 1 inch long; borne on upper branches.

Similar plants: The yellow rocket looks similar but has rounded lower leaves that are more heart shaped.

Root: Short taproot.

The problem is….Seeds live in the soil for many years. Very common in cultivated fields. Cultivation brings seeds to the surface where they germinate.

Wild mustards bright yellow flowers may be seen during most of the growing season in Ohio.

Gallery 21.1 Wild mustard, Brassica kaber


Young plant

Entire plant


Wild mustard

Taxonomy Kingdom: Plantae Phylum: Magnoliophyta Class: Magnoliopsida Order: Capparales Family: Brassicaceae Genus: Sinapis Species: S. arvensis Subspecies: S. arvensis Scientific Name Sinapis arvensis
L. Common Names wild mustard, charlock mustard, charlock, corn mustard, corn-mustard, wild mustard

Wild mustard(Sinapis arvensis)

Compiled by: Rachel Soto, Montana State University, Meagher County Extension

and Marjolein Schat, Montana State University from the following sources:





Identification and Life Cycle

Wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis) is a non-native annual in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). The plant has simple to freely branched stems 10 inches to 3 feet tall, and is very leafy. The lower stems to the whole plant can have stiff to bristly hairs. Wild mustard leaves are alternate, ovate to obovate in outline. The lower leaves are about 4 – 6 inches long, stalked, with 1-3 very unequal lobes near the base. The rest of the blade tends to be a large end leaflet, coarsely to finely toothed. The upper leaves are smaller and short- to non-stalked. Flowers are numerous in dense, compounded clusters, as much as 12 inches long. Flower stalks are stout, 1/16 to 1/4 inch long, erect or ascending. The 4 sepals, 1/5 to 1/8 inch long, are narrowly oblong, spreading, the edges rolled in. The 4 petals are showy, spatulate, 1/3 to 1/2 inch long, with a narrow, erect claw about half the length of the petal. Fruits are siliques, 1.5 to 2 inches long, about 1/16 inch broad, and hairless to somewhat short-hairy. Siliques are straight or slightly up-curved, and the flattened beak 1/3 to 1/2 as long as the valves and similarly rather evidently 3-nerved. There are 7-12 seeds, about 1/16 inch long, with fine honey-comb patterns in each silique.


The plant can grow in light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Wild mustard is common in cultivated fields, gardens, pastures, riverbanks, roadsides and waste places.


Wild mustard is highly invasive, and may be poisonous to livestock. Wild mustard is considered a noxious weed in many states. Wild mustard can be a serious weed problem in spring cereals. Germination of wild mustard seed and rapid early seedling growth under cool spring and fall temperatures allow wild mustard to compete effectively with crop plants for light, water and nutrients. Populations of wild mustard left uncontrolled throughout the growing season can reduce potential yield and seed quality of the harvested crop.

Biology and Ecology

Wild mustard flowers in May-June and bears fruits in July-August. Minimum temperature for seed germination is 36°F; and the optimum is 57-68°F. Brown seeds have higher energy and speed of germination than black ones. Seeds germinate from depths of no more than 5-6 cm; their viability is maintained in soil for up to 10 years. Seeds partly keep their ability to germinate while passing through the digestive system of animals. Wild mustard plants have from 10-18 seeds per pod and can produce from 2,000-3,500 seeds per plant.

Management Approaches

There are no biological control agents available.

Mechanical and Cultural Control

Since wild mustard is an annual plant that reproduces only by seed, this weed can be controlled by mechanical cultivation of emerged seedlings. However, cultivation of infested land is often impossible since wild mustard seed germinates at about the same time as spring planted annual crops.

Chemical Control

There have been reports of resistance to Photosystem II inhibitors, Synthetic auxins, and ALS inhibitors in Canada, and one report of a resistance to ALS inhibitors in the United States (North Dakota). For more information about herbicide resistance please see http://www.weedscience.org/Summary/USpeciesCountry.asp?lstWeedID=158&FmSpecies=Go

For herbicide recommendations for specific grain rotations and weeds in Montana, please see the MSU Herbicide Chooser Tool.

Examples of herbicides that can be used to manage wild mustard

Consult herbicide labels for additional rate, application, and safety information. Additional herbicide information can be found at http://www.greenbook.net.

Herbicide Active Ingredient trade name Mode of Action Product per Acre Application Time or Growth Stage
Imazethapyr Inhibition of acetolacetate synthase ALS (acetohydroxyacid synthase AHAS)
*Pursuit 3 – 6 ounces Apply post emergence to seedling alfalfa when alfalfa is in the second trifoliate stage or larger and the weeds are 1 to 3 inches tall. In alfalfa grown for seed, apply herbicide before bud formation. In established alfalfa Pursuit may be applied in the fall or in spring to dormant or semi-dormant alfalfa with less than 3 inches of re-growth.
Dry Beans and Dry Peas
Imazamox Inhibition of acetolacetate synthase ALS (acetohydroxyacid synthase AHAS)
*Raptor 4 ounces Please see label list of bean and pea crops. Do not apply to succulent peas, snap beans, chickpeas, or lentils. Apply postemergence prior to bloom stage but after dry beans have at least one fully expanded trifoliate leaf and dry peas have at least 3 pairs of leaves. Delay application until the majority of the weeds are 3 inches tall.
Grass Grown for Seed
Dicamba Action like indole acetic acid (synthetic auxins)
*Clarity 8 – 16 ounces Apply 8 – 16 fluid ounces of per treated acre on seedling grass after the crop reaches the 3 – 5 leaf stage. Apply up to 64 fluid ounces on well-established perennial grass. For best performance, apply when weed rosettes are less than 2 inches across.
Permanent Grass Pasture and Rangeland
Triclopyr, fluroxypyr Action like indole acetic acid (synthetic auxins)
*PastureGard 1.5 – 2 pints For best results, apply when weeds are small and growing actively but before the bud stage.
Wheat (except Durum and Wampum varieties of SpringWheat) , Barley and Triticale
Thifensulfuron, tribenuron, metsulfuron Inhibition of acetolacetate synthase ALS (acetohydroxyacid synthase AHAS)
*Ally Extra 0.2 – 0.4 ounces Make applications after the crop is in the 2-leaf stage, but before the flag leaf is visible. Do not harvest sooner than 45 days after the last application of Ally Extra.
Durum and Wampum Varieties of Spring Wheat
Thifensulfuron, tribenuron, metsulfuron Inhibition of acetolacetate synthase ALS (acetohydroxyacid synthase AHAS)
*Ally Extra 0.2 – 0.4 ounces Make applications after the crop is tillering but before boot. Applications to durum and wampum varieties should be made in combination with 2,4-D.

The information herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and that listing of commercial products, necessary to this guide, implies no endorsement by the authors or the Extension Services of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Criticism of products or equipment not listed is neither implied nor intended. Due to constantly changing labels, laws and regulations, the Extension Services can assume no liability for the suggested use of chemicals contained herein. Pesticides must be applied legally complying with all label directions and precautions on the pesticide container and any supplemental labeling and rules of state and federal pesticide regulatory agencies. State rules and regulations and special pesticide use allowances may vary from state to state: contact your State Department of Agriculture for the rules, regulations and allowances applicable in your state and locality.

For more information and images please visit IPM Bugwood. http://www.ipmimages.org/search/action.cfm?q=sinapis%20arvensis

Indian mustard

Indian mustard (Brassica × juncea) is similar to canola (Brassica × napus), wild turnip (Brassica tournefortii), turnip weed (Rapistrum rugosum), charlock (Sinapis arvensis) and Buchan weed (Hirschfeldia incana). These species canbe distinguished from eash other by the following differences: Indian mustard (Brassica × juncea) has mostly hairless (i.e. glabrous) stems and pale yellow or bright yellow flowers with moderately large petals (6.5-13 mm long). Its fruit very are elongated in shape (2-6 cm long and 2-5 mm wide) with a relatively short beak (4-10 mm long) at the tip. These fruit are borne on moderately long stalks (i.e. pedicels), 7-20 mm long, and are held in an upright (i.e. ascending) or spreading position.canola (Brassica × napus) has hairless (i.e. glabrous) stems and pale yellow or bright yellow flowers with relatively large petals (11-18 mm long). Its fruit are very elongated in shape (4.5-11 cm long and 2.5-4 mm wide) with a long beak (5-30 mm long) at the tip. These fruit are borne on long stalks (i.e. pedicels), 15-30 mm long, and are held in an upright (i.e. ascending) or spreading position.wild turnip (Brassica tournefortii) has bristly hairy (i.e. hispid) lower stems and pale yellow or whitish flowers with relatively small petals (5-8 mm long). Its fruit are very elongated in shape (3-7 cm long and 2-3 mm wide) with a long beak (8-20 mm long) at the tip. These fruit are borne on moderately long stalks (i.e. pedicels), 10-30 mm long, and are held in an upright (i.e. ascending) or spreading position.turnip weed (Rapistrum rugosum) has bristly hairy (i.e. hispid) stems and bright yellow flowers with moderately large petals (6-10 mm long). Its fruit are short and somewhat rounded in shape (6-10 mm long) with a short beak (3-6 mm long) at the tip. These fruit are borne on short stalks (pedicels), 2-5 mm long, and are held close (i.e. appressed) to the flowering stem.charlock (Sinapis arvensis) has bristly hairy (i.e. hispid) stems and bright yellow flowers with moderately large petals (9-12 mm long). Its fruit are very elongated in shape (2.5-5.5 cm long and 2-4 mm wide) with a long beak (10-15 mm long) at the tip. These fruit are borne on relatively short and thick stalks (i.e. pedicels), 3-7 mm long, and are held in an upright (i.e. ascending) or spreading position. Buchan weed (Hirschfeldia incana) has bristly hairy (i.e. hispid) lower stems and pale yellow flowers with relatively small petals (6-8 mm long). Its fruit are elongated in shape (7-17 mm long and 1-2 mm wide) with a short thick beak (3-6 mm long) at the tip. These fruit are borne on short thick stalks (i.e. pedicels), 2-4 mm long, are held close (i.e. appressed) to the flowering stem. It is also relatively similar to hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), Indian hedge mustard (Sisymbrium orientale), London rocket (Sisymbrium irio) and African turnip weed (Sisymbrium thellungii). However, none of these species have an elongated ‘beak’ at the tip of their fruit.

Tips For Cultivating Wild Mustard Mustard As An Herb

Native to Eurasia, folks have been cultivating wild mustard for 5,000 years, but with its proclivity to grow almost anywhere untended, there’s almost no reason to cultivate it. Wild mustard plants grow almost everywhere on earth including Greenland and the North Pole. Wild mustard has commonly been used to flavor foods, but more importantly wild mustard has been known for its herbal uses. A truly fascinating plant with a myriad of uses, read on to find out how to use wild mustard as an herb in the landscape.

About Wild Mustard Plants

Mustard, Sinapis arvensis, is in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, turnips, and others. All wild mustards are edible, but some are tastier than others. Greens are most succulent when young and tender. Older leaves may be a bit too strong for some palates.

Seeds and flowers are also edible. Flowers bloom from spring through summer. The little yellow blossoms have a unique shape, like that of a Maltese cross, a nod to their family name of Cruciferae, or cross like.

Wild mustard, also known as charlock, grows rapidly, is frost and drought tolerant, and can be found growing wild in fields and along roads in almost any type of soil. As mentioned, wild mustard plants grow prolifically, a fact that has irritated many a cattle rancher. Cattle growers tend to think of wild mustard as more of a plague since there is a general consensus that when

cows eat the plant they get very sick.

How to Use Wild Mustard

Wild mustard can be used as an herb to spice up oils and vinegars, to add flavor to ho-hum eggs or potatoes, and to enliven many other culinary creations. Of course, we can’t forget mustard’s use as a condiment, to me it’s THE condiment. Grind the seeds, mix with vinegar and salt and voila!

Wild mustard greens are also delicious and can be cooked down to a nutritious mess of greens. Flowers from mustard can be tossed into salads for some peppery pizzazz, or used dry in place of pricey saffron.

The seeds from mustard can be dried and then ground into powder and used as a peppery spice. Used whole, the seeds give a kick to pickles and relishes. The seeds can also be pressed to separate their oils, which burn quite well and can be used in oil lamps or for cooking.

Historically, though, wild mustard herbal use was geared more towards its medicinal properties. Ever heard of a mustard plaster? A mustard plaster was (and still is I suppose) crushed or ground mustard seed mixed with a bit of water to make a paste. The paste was then spread on a cloth and placed herb side up on a person’s chest, sore joints or other areas of swelling and pain. Mustard opens up blood vessels and allows the blood system to draw out toxins and increase blood flow, reducing swelling and pain.

Wild mustard can also help reduce headache pain when taken as a tea or encapsulated. Sinuses can be cleared by inhaling mustard vapor over a bowl filled with hot water combined with a small amount of ground mustard. The user drapes a towel over their head and inhales the spicy vapor.

There is some risk associated with using mustard medicinally. Some people are quite sensitive to it, and it can cause stomach problems, eye irritation or skin rashes.

Additional Uses for Wild Mustard

Mustard oil can be painted onto items you don’t want your dog to chew on or the cat to scratch. It is, in fact, the active ingredient in commercially prepared products of this nature. Mustard oil can also be used as a lubricant as it thickens but never fully dries out. The plant produces a pale semi-permanent dye and the flowers also a semi-permanent yellow/green dye.

Cultivating wild mustard as a green manure is arguably one of the best uses for the plant. A green manure is a plant that grows quickly and is then tilled back into the soil to enrich it and wild mustard fills this roll beautifully. Plus, while it’s growing, you can harvest a little for yourself to flavor food or for medicinal uses – a win/win.

Wild mustard is despised among native plant activist. It smothers native plants and flowers transforming the landscape of the United States. Each plant can produce up to 500 seeds allowing it to spread rapidly. It is also allelopathic meaning its leaves and roots exude compounds that inhibit other plants from growing. When it dries up in the summer it provides fuel for wildfires.

In Southern California, early spring brings wild mustard blooms. A dense yellow climbs up and down the hills of the Santa Monica Mountains and frames the oak trees. This invasive plant is beautiful. It is also nutritious and has endless versatility in the kitchen.

Wild Mustard is a beautiful Invasive.

Wild mustard is native to Eurasia and shares the brassica family with garden favorites like broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts and pok choi. There are many different types of wild mustard in the United States. If you live in the eastern part of the country you have probably encountered garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). In Southern California, we mostly encounter black mustard (Brassica nigra) and Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii), a native to North Africa that has found a home in the deserts of California.

Sahara mustard, one of the more recent mustard arrivals, has inspired a mythology around its journey to the United States. My favorite story claims that Spanish explorers spread the seed in order to create a golden pathway to find their way home. In reality, the Sahara mustard probably arrived in the 1920’s along with the date palm industry in the Coachella Valley.

Foraging for Wild Mustard

The foragers rule, harvest only a small amount of any one plant, can be ignored when harvesting wild mustard. Instead, harvest the whole plant and rip out a few more plants while you are at it. Eating wild mustard helps reduce this invasive species and gives your local plants a fighting chance.

Every part of the wild mustard plant is edible and below I offer a few wild mustard recipes.

Wild Mustard Recipes

Flower Mustard

Mustard flowers have a sharp mustard taste with differing levels of spice depending on the type of mustard (black mustard being one of the spiciest). This mustard is strong and only requires a small amount to flavor food. Young mustard leaves can be substituted for the flowers.


  • 1 cup fresh mustard flowers
  • ½ cup of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Spices to taste (choose from rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil, sage)


Grind all of the ingredients until a paste is formed. I like to use a mortar and pestle for a more coarse mustard and a Magic Bullet Blender for a smooth mustard.

A small amount of this mustard goes a long way.

Wild Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are sharp when raw. The best way to prepare them is to steam or boil them in water for a few minutes. From there you can substitute them for spinach in any recipe or just eat them with some olive oil and lemon.

Mustard Root Sauce

Mustard roots are the mildest part of the plant. I grate them and use them in this horseradish-like sauce. Note that the roots are very tough, a good grater is a necessity.


  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated mustard root
  • 1 teaspoon white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl until creamy. Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight. Can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Wild mustard roots.

Do you have any other ways you use wild mustard? Let us know below.


The Wild Mustard is a wild kind of mustard. Where it grows, the farmers think of it as a nasty weed. Its rough hairs distinguish it from other plants of the mustard family with yellow flowers.

The seeds of the Wild Mustard can be used like the seed of cultivated Mustard. You can use it as a spice.

With pulverized seeds you can make a poultice to tease the skin. This is strengthening the blood circulation.

Wild Mustard is also used as the Bach Flower Remedy Mustard.

Medicinal Uses

  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestive weakness
  • Metabolism strengthening
  • Rheumatic pain


Used Parts: Seed
Time to collect: May until Early Autumn


Wild Mustard can be used in the kitchen and as a poultice to stimulate the blood circulation.


In the kitchen you can use the young leaves of the Wild Mustard in salads and vegetables.

The seeds can be used as a spice and to grow sprouts.

Eating Wild Mustard is stimulating the appetite and the digestion.

The metabolism is invigorated.

External use

The seeds of the Wild Mustard can be pulverized and mixed with water as a mash.

With this mash you can make a poultice to irritate the skin stimulate the blood stimulation.

This can help against rheumatic pain and neuralgic pain.

Plant description

Wild Mustard is at home in Europe.

You can find it in gardens, beside roads and on fields.

Wild Mustard can grow up to 60 cm high.

It is an annual plant.

The leaves are lobed, hairy and rough.

From may to august the flowers are blossoming. They are yellow and small with four petals.

The seeds are ripening in late summer.

7 Common Weeds with Identification Pictures

Your lawn is the welcome mat to your home. Everyone strives for the perfect lawn, you know, the one that makes the neighbors green with envy.

Keeping a well maintained lawn can be costly and confusing. You know the basic needs of your lawn. What height to cut your grass for maximum health. How much and when to water your lawn. And of course, the basics of fertilizing your lawn. But have you ever found yourself looking at a weed in your lawn or landscaping and wonder what it is and how do I get rid of it? Well we are here to help you with your lawn weeds identification.

Here are 7 Common Weeds with Identification Pictures for you.

When it comes to controlling weeds in your lawn, knowing what you are trying to kill is more than half the battle. Once you know the weed you can then choose from many options to control them, sometimes if you get it early enough it won’t cost an arm and a leg to get rid of them.

There are many ways to prevent these weeds from getting established in your lawn. Good cultural practices such as not mowing your grass too short and giving your lawn the nutrients it needs throughout the year so your grass can outgrow and compete with the weeds will go a long way to keeping them at levels where you won’t need to spray. And knowing how to choose and apply mulch to your landscape beds goes a long way to keep them nice and tidy.

Now let’s talk about some of the weeds you’ll commonly find and how you can control them.

Here are 7 Common Weeds.


Dandelion is probably the easiest to recognize, it’s leaves are lance-shaped with irregular and jagged edges. And there are few plants that can be identified as quickly with it’s bright yellow flowers, and their seed heads that look like puffballs. They are perennial, which simply means, once a plant establishes it’s self in your lawn it will grow every year unless you take action to control it.

The good news is that Dandelion is fairly easy to control. If you don’t have too many you can pull them by hand by using a weeding tool made for dandelions. If they do get established in your lawn and there are just too many to pull by hand you can control them by spraying or during your fertilizing application. There are pet-safe options available as well.

Creeping Charlie

Commonly found in lawns that are cut too short, Creeping Charlie is probably the hardest weed to get rid of because even a small piece left behind can regrow and make a new plant.

You can identify this groundcover weed by its scalloped leaves and clusters of purple flowers in late spring.

Controlling this weed is difficult, there are few options available that work. Spraying in the spring will only slow the weed down. Fall is the best time to spray and look for a product that contains Dicamba as an active ingredient.

If it invades your garden beds you can kill it by smothering it with a thick layer of newspaper and mulch. Then pull any new growth as soon as you see it.


Also known as Wood Sorrel is another perennial plant that is becoming more common in homeowners yards. This plant is easiest to recognize when it flowers, the most common variety has bright yellow flowers but there is also a variety that has pink/lavender flowers. All varieties have cup-shape flowers with 5 petals. Oxalis also is called “lucky plant”, only because the leaves are shaped like a three-leaf clover. But don’t let your pets eat any parts of the plant because it’s poisonous if they eat enough of it.

Oxalis is one of the more difficult weeds to control so when you do use a product for control of Oxalis choose one that will control it along with another hard-to-control weed, chickweed.

Musk Thistle

Musk Thistle is a biennial plant and because of this many homeowners make the mistake of thinking that if they let a freeze in the fall kill it, it won’t come back the next year. This plant flowers during its’ second year of growth. putting out a dark purple flower.

Musk thistle can be controlled by digging the plant out of your flowerbeds. I’ve found that a tiling spade works best for this job, it helps to get as much of the root as you can. Just be sure to wear heavy gloves when you dig them as the plant has needle like thorns on its’ leaves.

Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf Plantain has green, oval to egg-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette. They have thick stems that meet at a base and when the stems are broken, they reveal string-like veins that resemble those in celery.

They can produce a lot of seed so they spread across your property very rapidly. They also spread from one area of your lawn to another by hitching a ride when you mow your lawn.

If you only have a few plants they are easy to dig using a shovel. Best control is done in the fall using a herbicide that is labeled for broadleaf control like 2,4-D and several others.

White Clover

White clover is a creeping perennial broadleaf plant. It grows fairly low to the ground, you could even characterize it as creeping across the ground. Especially mature plants in your lawn that are in high traffic areas or have been mowed several times.

One of the easiest ways to tell clover from similar looking weeds like Oxalis is by looking for a whitish crescent in the center of the leaves.

Controlling clover is difficult and if possible you should dig them out of landscape beds. And in the lawn, it will take several perfectly timed herbicide applications over the course of a couple of years to get rid of a heavy infestation. The same herbicide that you use for Oxalis works on Clover.

White Clover can completely overtake a lawn and smother out any grass. Mowing your grass short promotes clover to take over your lawn.

Wild Violet is a very resourceful and unusual plant. It can have a taproot or a fibrous root system, and also can produce rooting stolons and rhizomes. What does that mean to you the average person? It means it can grow almost anywhere.

The leaves can vary but usually are heart shaped, and the flowers range from white to blue to purple. And the flowers are shaped like pansies.

They can easily spread into turfgrass. You can dig these up to remove them but make sure you remove all the root or they will grow back.

Wild violet can be controlled with the same product and timing as clover.

As you can see some of the most common weeds can be the most difficult ones to get rid of, I suppose that is why they are so common. Just keep in mind that you can prevent or slow the spread of all these weeds by doing the basics.

  • Don’t mow your lawn too short, 3 inches is a good height for most grasses.

  • Fertilize your lawn correctly, at least in the spring and fall.

  • Water wisely, over-watering is just as bad for your lawn as under-watering.

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Pesky weeds and wild plants may not be everyone’s favorite thing. They’re almost impossible to get rid of and they easily take over the yard. When planting a garden, a great deal of time and money goes into making plants grow, and the weeds, well those have to go. But wait, hold on! Did you know that many of those wild weeds are also edible? Edible weeds are particularly abundant in North America, so start looking.

With spring time in full swing, the foraging season has begun. If you’re a newbie to foraging, don’t worry, you don’t have to go far. There’s probably a handful of edible weeds popping up in your own backyard right now. Although you probably won’t find these edible weeds in the grocery store, that doesn’t mean they should get tossed!

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Collecting wood sorrel

A post shared by George (@georgebarson) on May 3, 2017 at 8:14am PDT

Embrace the wild and eat your garden weeds. While some foraged weeds can be an acquired taste, you may be surprised at how tasty the wild plants in your backyard really are. They also have a surprising amount of nutritional and health benefits, and the best part is they’re totally free!

While backyard weeds will vary due to region, these are seven of the most common weeds you’ll find flourishing in your yard this spring.

1. Dandelion

Dandelions may ruin a lawn, but they certainly don’t ruin your stomach. Possibly the most recognized weed in the yard, dandelions are an abundant weed simply waiting to be foraged. They’re also abundant in nutrition. They’re a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and even potassium and calcium. Rather than spending your time using harmful weed killers, embrace the dandelions and eat them up. From flower heads to the root, every part of the dandelion is edible!

When foraging dandelion greens, the bigger the leaves, the more bitter the flavor. If you prefer dandelions milder, pick young leaves and cook them in a soup. Cooking the leaves will help mellow out the flavor. If you prefer the bitter taste, then choose the bigger leaves and toss them in a salad. Oh, and if you’re a fan of fried squash blossoms, why not dip the flower heads in some batter and fry those suckers up!

2. Clover

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How many times have you spotted clover and thought if you looked hard enough you would find one with four leaves? Clover is a common weed we encounter almost every day. While you may be searching for the lucky clover, those three leafed ones are more than luck, they’re edible.

Small amounts of raw clover leaves can add a kick to a salad or be used in a dish like you would fresh herbs. The blooms of white and red clover can also be eaten. Raw, cooked, or made into a tea, clover is a versatile ingredient.

3. Wood Sorrel

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Woodsy salad. #woodsorrel

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What you think may be a clover may actually be wood sorrel. It has a similar three leaf structure, but wood sorrel leaves are more heart-shaped as opposed to rounded. When foraging wood sorrel, take note of the leaf structure. If you accidentally wind up with clover, however, don’t worry because both are edible.

Wood sorrel is a common weed throughout North America. It’s high in vitamin C and has a pleasant lemony flavor. If you’ve had sheep sorrel before, it’s flavor profile can be compared to that.

You can munch on the leaves raw or add them to a salad to add a hint of lemon. They also pair well with seafood and wild game. When preparing wood sorrel, pick off the flowers, leaves, and seed pods. All of these can be eaten, but tough stems should be discarded.

4. Purslane

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When you stumble across a huge patch of purslane on the footpath ? ? #purslane #omega3 #forage #wildfood

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If you find purslane growing in the sidewalk cracks, don’t toss it in the yard waste pile! Purslane is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are important for a healthy heart and nervous system, so tossing out purslane would be like tossing out a bottle of fish oil supplements. In Chinese medicine, purslane was used to heal inflammation and treat gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea. So in a pinch, you might be happy you kept it around.

Purslane is slightly sour with a lemony taste. When munching on it, know that it is a succulent so the leaves are crisp. Cook it, eat it raw or pickle it if you like. While it tends to grow abundantly in the cracks of the sidewalk, urban sidewalks are not the cleanest place. When foraging purslane, stick to your backyard instead.

5. Lamb’s Quarters

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Lunch! #svinmålla #chenopodiumalbum #fathen #lambsquarters

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In a pristine landscape, you might find lamb’s quarters to be invasive. Also known as goosefoot and pigweed, it can crowd other plants in the garden. While you may not be fond of the looks, lamb’s quarters is totally edible. In fact, it’s not only edible, but it’s healthy!

Lamb’s quarters is a good source of several vitamins and minerals. One serving has more than the recommended dose of vitamin A and K, and has significant amounts of magnesium and calcium. In comparison to other greens, lamb’s quarters is a cross between spinach and swiss chard – so it makes for an excellent salad green. Try it in a spring salad or sauté it with some onions for a wild treat.

6. Plantain

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Hands down one of my favorite weedy plants #broadleafplantain #plantagomajor #medicinalplants #weedyplants #sogoodformosquitobites

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Not to be confused with the delicious cooking banana, plantains are a highly common, healthy weed that’s probably flourishing in your backyard. Native to Europe, plantain was brought to North America by European settlers. Since then, this invasive species is practically everywhere.

Commonly known as a broadleaf plantain, plantains have been used medicinally to cure colds and flu. It contains anti-bacterial properties that reduce inflammation and soothe a sore throat. Its nutritional benefits are similar to that of the dandelion, so health-wise they’re a good weed to have on hand.

The flavor is slightly nutty and can be compared to that of asparagus. You can pan-fry the broadleaf shoots in a bit of olive oil – just as you would asparagus – and enjoy them all by their lonesome. It’s recommended, however, to eat the smaller leaves. The bigger, older leaves tend to be more fibrous and bitter in taste.

7. Stinging Nettles

The first time I ate nettles, I was skeptical. The name doesn’t necessarily imply good eats. What’s rather surprising is their green taste. Once cooked, they become soft and highly edible. They taste similar to spinach and other greens cooked down from root vegetables.

Stinging nettles are a rather common weed. In fact, you’ve probably passed by these green guys and may have identified them as just ‘another common pesky weed.’ While they do have their name for a reason, you’ll be fine picking them with a pair of gloves. Loaded with tons of minerals as well as protein, stinging nettles are a backyard delight you shouldn’t pluck and toss.

While caution should always be taken when foraging, it’s a fun activity to engage in. Get to know your plants and have a tasty weed-filled spring!

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Herb Talk Tuesday – Clover – Why & How to use it

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s day, I thought it could be fun to talk about the lovely clover plant family and all its variations and folklore. It’s Herb Talk Tuesday, do you have a cup of tea or coffee? Good. Then let’s chat…

The Trifolium plant family

Trifolium is the scientific name that over 300 individual plants belong to. The name suggests the nature of the plants, that they have three (tri) leaves (folium/foliage). There is no single species that produces 4 leaves to a stem, making these rare occurrences when one grows with 4 leaflets special indeed.

Today, we are not going to look at all 300 species (unfortunatly, my mug of coffee isn’t large enough for that). But I do want to talk about some of the most common, share about how they are used (or not), and share some of the traditional lore surrounding St. Patrick and this common little clover.

Most Common Clover Types

Did you know? Trifolium plants are in the legume/pea family.

White Clover – Trifolium repens{image source}

Trifolium repens – White Clover – is the most commonly cultivated clover. White clover is native to Europe and Asia, and has naturalized in many other regions, including North America. This clover is often found in lawns and disturbed areas and is a favorite of bees in the spring and summer due to its prolific blooming.

Red clover – Trifolium pratense{image source}

Trifolium pratense – Red Clover – is another very common clover. Again, this clover was a native of Europe, but now naturalized in many parts of the world. This is the most commonly used variety in herbal preparations.

Egyptian clover – Trifolium alexandrinum {image source}

Trifolium alexandrinum – Egyptian clover or berseem clover – This variety is an important cultivated plant in sub-tropical regions like the Egypt and Mediterranean areas for agriculture. It is utilized as a fodder for cattle and milk buffalo. It looks similar to white clover but has more lance-shaped leaves.

Lesser trefoil – Trifolium dubium{image source}

Trifolium dubium – Lesser trefoil – This clover is another native of Europe, naturalized in many parts of the world. It is a more delicate variety with trailing branches full of clustered leaves and tiny, darling, yellow blossoms. This is generally regarded as the primary variety to represent the traditional Irish Shamrock.

Clover Traditions and Lore

The four leaf clover is most popularly associated with ‘good luck’. You see this symbol more than any other during the St. Patrick day holiday.

But the Irish typically hold the three leaf clover with much more regard as a representation of the Holy Trinity. The three leaves stand each stand for one member of the trinity; The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

St. Patrick

We can’t talk about clover and Irish shamrocks and not talk about St. Patrick! Who was St. Patrick? Did you know that he wasn’t even Irish?

Patrick was an atheist Roman who was living in Britain when he was kidnapped as a youth, taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. He endured years of torturous conditions in forced labor and it was there in his darkest times that he found God. He was given supernatural peace and hope and one day was able to escape his captors and return to his well off family in Britain.

But once he returned to his life of leisure that he had longed for for so long, he felt God calling him back to Ireland. Patrick ultimately returned to Ireland, with forgiveness in his heart for his captors, and compassion and empathy for the remaining captives. He shared the love of Jesus with them and worked to abolish slavery and restore slaves to their homes. Even in the face of extreme opposition, violent threats and abuse; Patrick continued to share the love and hope to the Irish people. (read more here)

Herbal uses of Red Clover

Since Red Clover (Or trifolium pratense) is the most common variety of clover used by us herbalists, I must include some more info on that here today!

Red clover contains isoflavones which, like most legumes, are a type of phytoestrogen. It also contains beneficial constituents like; silica, choline, lecithin, calcium, phenolic glycosides, salicylates, cyanogenic glycosides, and coumarins.

Red clover blossoms and leaves are commonly used as a nourishing spring time tea

Traditionally suggested for supporting all aspects of the female reproductive system, through all seasons of life. It is considered soothing and cleansing, commonly called ‘the Best Spring Tonic’. After a long winter of hibernation, red clover helps to cleanse, rejuvenate the blood, and clear stagnation

Some recommend it as ‘a tea to promote health and peace of mind, can be taken daily without harm’. Externally, ointments containing red clover and baths of red clover tea support normal, healthy, clear skin.

Red clover is very versatile and is utilized in many of Shawnee Moon’s herbal formulas. From Amber Smoothing Oil, to Sun Dance ointment, from Daily Supplement to Tamsah Mide and more! Check them all out here!

Join the conversation

How do you use Red Clover? Did you know the real story behind the legend of St. Patrick? Did you learn any new ways that you might utilize the many benefits of red clover? Let us know in the comments below! Or join our FB community group page here.

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