Scary stories from a lovely place
A surprising front runner in the coolest plants of my garden is Indian brown mustard. I bought the seeds on a whim from Fair Dinkum Seeds, mostly because I thought it would be cool to make mustard. At the time we were a bit obsessed with mustard, and the hotter the better. The burn of hot mustard is different to the heat of chilli. It’s a rawer, spicier heat, but it disappears as quickly as it whistles up your nose and down your throat. It’s good on a sandwich with cucumber or something else green and cooling. We also love it mixed with Guinness and bitter marmalade as a glaze on baked ham.
Related to broccoli and kale, mustard is a member of the brassica family, and the germination of the seeds shows the same signature two heart shaped leaves as these other plants. They form a tough, broccoli like ‘trunk’ and grow long green, dinosaury leaves. They are tall – my best plant grew to about 2.5 metres high. And it boasts sweet little buttercup yellow flowers which the bees were mad for. These are then quickly followed by long, spindly seed pods which puff out remarkably over a few weeks.
I’ve dried one batch of seeds, and have another lot on the way. I’m not sure how much mustard I’m going to get though. The seeds are small, and although there were a lot of pods, I imagine it may only make one small jar. But mustard isn’t like quince jelly or snow peas, one doesn’t eat it in large, sickening mouthfuls. It’s application to sandwiches need only be miniature.
The mustard aside, I would grow this plant just for the sake of the flowers and their symbiosis with bees. I have sown a heap more seeds, which are all slowly germinating (come on more warm days!). I plan to plant them all over the garden. In fact, I’ve seen this plant growing as weeds on the sidewalk and in median strips, but only very small specimens.
I’ve tried other brassicas this season too. My kale and broccoli didn’t survive the late summer heat as seedlings. New broccoli seedlings were happily chowed by our Bunny before I could secure the beds. There is a third lot coming along now, but it’s too late in the season. And the brussell sprouts have barely moved since I planted them in the ground months ago. We love to eat these much maligned little green mouthfuls, but I fear we will not be so successful at growing them. I think I need to live in a colder climate to have more success with brassicas. But not the Indian Brown Mustard – it likes us.