The Lifecycle of the Mustard Seed

Reader Contribution by Lindsay Dawson Mynatt
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The mustard seed is a truly remarkable specimen. Ranging from 1-2 millimeters in diameter and colored yellowish white to black, these tiniest of seeds have a full lifecycle. Once planted in the ground, mustard seeds spring forth edible leaves and flowers and eventually form seed pods bursting with new life. Discovering the lifecycle of the mustard seed from experimenting in my garden was an exciting process.

When we watch for daily changes, simple lessons emerge. 

May: Planting the Seeds

On May 8th, I planted Tatsoi mustard seeds from a packet. In just 12 days, my little green sprouts were shooting out of the ground.  (See lead photo)

June: Harvesting the Greens 

In less than a month, the sprouts evolved into spicy and crunchy green leaves that were ready to harvest.

July: Bolting to Flowers

In July, the weather turned hot and the greens seemed to bolt overnight into delicate yellow flowers that I used for salad toppers and stirfrys. 

August: Seed Pods

As I continued to observe the Tatsoi plants, I noticed that small green nodes started to form on the stem. I opened one to reveal green seeds and paused to consider if this was how mustard seeds actually form. I had never actually thought about it. Prior to this, mustard seeds were found in Aisle 5 second shelf down. I had not connected that the tiny seeds for the greens were in fact the same that we use for mustard. With this new information in hand, I looked at my crop in a new light. Cucumbers were forming on the vine and the idea of future pickles or homemade mustard began to form. 

September: Harvesting the Seed

Once the green pods turned papery brown and split open easily, the seeds were ready to harvest. I gingerly plucked the stems from the plant and put everything in a paper bag. With a good shake , the seeds easily broke free from the pods and I was able to cull out the chaff. 

How I Used The Harvested Mustard Seeds

Fortunately when it was time to can pickles, I had my own stash of mustard seeds. The local market was out of stock for weeks due to all of the covid gardens! That’s one good reason to let your greens go to seed. 

Another way to impress your friends (if only virtually) is making a true DIY mustard with your homegrown seeds. The Spruce Eats has an easy to follow Simple Mustard Recipe with Variations. …

Each season of gardening gives an awareness that only immersing my hands in the dirt can bring. I love the discovery of the simple lessons and learning how to integrate all the edible parts of a plant into the kitchen. What new discovery did you make this year? 

Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt is a dedicated forager, outdoor enthusiast, and blogger for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Her published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Press in the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and 5-Minute, 5-Ingredient Mayonnaise in the 2015 Best of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Follow her adventures at A Faithful Journey, and read all of Lyndsay’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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