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The magic of mustard

For mere seasoning or for the oil which lends a distinctive flavour to any kind of cuisine, mustard is a vital ingredient

THE MUSTARD seed finds mention in Sanskrit texts that date back to 1000 B.C. Not surprising when you consider the Himalayan origin of this herb.

Mustard leaves are a popular salad herb and mustard oil gives Bengali cuisine its distinctive taste. The oil is also the cooking medium of choice in southern Russia and the Caucasus. Freshly prepared yellow mustard seed paste, mixed with vinegar, wine, herbs and flour is a must-have dip and condiment for meat dishes and burgers and hot dogs.

About 100 gm of mustard leaves contain around 35 calories. The leaves are rich in iron, carotene and Vitamin C. Around 150 gm of leaves easily meet a day's requirement of Vitamin C, and much of the day's Vitamin A needs. The leaves also contain significant amounts of the Vitamin B, niacin, and calcium and potassium. Hundred grams of mustard seed contains nearly 25 gm of protein, 35 gm of fat, and 29 gm of carbohydrate. Mustard oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Its distinctive aroma comes from the minute quantities of isothiocyanates released during processing.

Isothiocyanates, if present in large amounts, can cause goitre — enlargement of the thyroid gland in the neck. The recorded medicinal use of mustard goes as far back as Hippocrates.

Mustard seeds and leaves are full of enzymes and proteins that have a counterirritant effect similar to that of commonly used pain balms. This effect made mustard plaster a priceless painkiller in arthritis, sprains and bruises, and lumbago. The antiseptic principles in the plaster made it invaluable for wounds and skin ulcers. East African tribes smoke the leaves for their hallucinogenic effects. The Javanese use the leaf paste to treat syphilis, and the Chinese drink the leaf soup for a variety of bladder conditions.


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