May 27, 2017

Pass the Hot Dog

Brassica nigra

Brassica nigra - Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Brassica nigra

Brassica nigra - Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Sometimes a weed is more than a weed. Sometimes it is the mustard for your hot dog. Such is Brassica nigra, a European native that has found its way across North America. Black mustard is a member of the mustard family and related to cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The plant has been cultivated for centuries and its seeds are its prize, used as a spice in many cultures around the world. Here, black mustard seed is used in pickling and for making mustard sauce. This herb grows up to 3 feet tall and can blossom from June into the fall, producing siliques holding those useful little black seeds. You don’t even have to go hunting for it in the wild; Pinetree Garden Seeds out of New Gloucester sells it so you can grow and harvest your own seed.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.