The 17th Annual Mustard Festival will be held from January 30 - March 27, 2010 in California’s Napa Valley. The Mustard Festival was originally arranged to help promote the area during the months when the vineyards are traditionally quiet. The festival celebrates with great food and wine, music and art and it all takes place among the spectacular scenery where the yellow mustard flowers grow alongside the vines.
Related to broccoli, all of the wild mustard plant can be eaten-the seeds, leaves and flowers with each part of the plant purveying a delicious spicy flavor. The newly grown mustard greens and flowers can be eaten as part of a salad, added to sandwiches for a peppery bite or cooked in much the same way as spinach. The leaves are full of nutrients and are rich in folic acid, calcium and vitamin C.
Mustard is the most familiar of condiments and has become an essential accompaniment to hot dogs. It is prepared from mustard seeds and other flavouring ingredients including vinegar, turmeric and spices. There are three main types of mustard seed used in cuisine - white (sinapis albis) which are actually yellow, black (brassica nigra) which are brown and then Indian or brown mustard seeds (brassica juncea) which are light brown.
Historians have found evidence of mustard growing in India 3,000 BCE. Grains of mustard have been found in the tombs of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the Romans ground it at the table and mixed it with wine, while the Greeks also used mustard seed as a medicine. By the Middle Ages mustard was popular across Europe and travelled over the Atlantic in the 1700’s. At this time the style of the mustard was strong, spicy and brown and was used very sparingly. It wasn’t until 1904 that the French brothers developed a different type of mustard that was bright yellow and much milder and was just in time to coincide with the growing rise in popularity of the ball park hot dog.
Legend has it that it was the Franciscan Padres who brought mustard seed from Spain and scattered it on either side of the roads between the Christian missions that they had founded. When it flowered they could then find their way between missions, their very own version of ‘follow the yellow brick road’.
Photos courtesy of flickr - enfinduvin, iflick, flipper202 and fucher