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Wild Mustard (Brassica and Sinapis species) Identification Guide

Wild Mustards / Spring / Summer / Edible

Wild Mustard can come in many shapes and sizes, there are a couple of different kinds but they all share similar characteristics. You get to a point where you walk past something and say to yourself “well I don’t know exactly what that is but it’s certainly one of the mustards”

Common and Latin Names:

Black Mustard (Brassica nigra), Charlock (Sinapis arvensis), White Mustard (Sinapis alba)


Harvest Season:

Late Spring to Summer these plants will be out in flower, leaf and seed, sometimes with a small revival in early Autumn.


Habitat:

They have been cultivated widely, and therefore have also escaped widely. Found in hedgerows, waysides, coastal paths and banks.


Range and Distributions:

Variations between the species of Mustards; Charlock is more common on clay soils and less often found in the northern regions. White Mustard is more common in eastern areas and prefers more Mediterranean climates.


Conservation Considerations: 

These plants are fairly common, observe the Botanical Society’s guideline of 1 in 20 for each site you visit.


Physical Characteristics of Wild Mustard: 

Flowers

The whole plant can grow to nearly a metre tall, and tend to branch, ending in small clusters of yellow flowers.


Leaves

The leaves are long, with varying degrees of invagination along the leaf stem. Some are hairier than others. The leaves are not paired, and they leave the main stem singly.

Pancrat, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Seeds

The seed pods are small and visibly contain multiple small seeds with a characteristically mustard-y taste.


Could be Confused with:

Hedge Mustard, Hoary Mustard and Rape. None is a problem as they are all edible and tasty, they will simply lack the mustard-like seed pods.


Edible Uses: 

All the aerial parts are good additions to foods like salads, quiches, salads and condiments. You can harvest a larger amount of mustard seeds and powder them for a wild addition to your spice rack and home remedy collection.


Medicinal Uses: 

Being a common group of plants, many mustard family plants have been used ubiquitously in folk medicine, with varying degrees of success.

The peppery tasting compounds have been prized for their counter-irritant, inflammation-modulating action on arthritis and rheumatism, but care should be taken with ‘mustard poultices’ because the skin can actually burn and blister.

These plants stimulate circulation.


Extra Points, Tips and Fun Facts: 

The name mustard was first recorded in France in 1288 and has its roots in the Latin for ‘burning (ardent) must’. It was often ground with grape must to make into remedies.


Resources

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers/hedge-mustard

https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/119101/sinapis-arvensis/details

http://www.seasonalwildflowers.com/black-mustard.html

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