My friend and neighbor, Kieth Beatty, who is a retired biochemist, causally invited me to go pick mustard down the street in Rose Canyon here in San Diego. What a strange idea, I thought at first, then I got excited about the notion of a short hike into the canyon down the street from where we live. I’m not a big mustard fan, but I was game to try my hand at foraging in Nature; after all, 2012 is right around the corner and maybe it’s time I learn a thing or two about living off the land…heh-heh…and to learn what the expression “it doesn’t cut the mustard” means.
Watch Kieth cut the mustard!

This is a photo of mustard growing in Rose Canyon Mustard, San Diego, CA.

Keith contemplating where to start picking.

This is a photo of Kieth Beatty picking mustard flowers in Rose Canyon, San Diego, CA.

30 minutes of picking yields about 5 oz. of mustard.

At 8AM we marched down the street with brown paper bags in hand and Keith began educating me on mustard. It’s been in the human diet for as long as scientists and researchers can determine. It has few predators, snails for one, and returns each year.

Mustard stems are delicate and when they die back, the stem is fragile and breaks easily. If something couldn’t cut the mustard, it was generally useless as a tool.

This is a photo of wild mustard growing in San Diego, CA.

The patch of mustard flowers I harvested.

Keith tends to think in terms of anti-aging, antioxidants, vitamins and getting enough natural stuff in his diet to be healthy.  He looks at plants for their concentrated goodness as only Nature can provide. In particular, he seeks out sources of lutein which is a yellow pigment found in fruits, veggies and other plants like mustard which are critical for the well being of the eyes. A mere 6 mg of lutein per day is all you need to greatly reduce your risk of macular degeneration. Why not have healthy eyes?

This is a photo of the mustard plant.

Mustard Up Close and Personal

Mustard is delicate and the flowers and seeds at the top of the stem are lovely and soft. It is easy to pinch them off and just as easy to harvest the large spiky leaves at the bottom. Most animals won’t touch mustard as it is bitter. Humans have figured out that adding vinegar to the leaves neutralizes the bitterness and makes the greens palatable. Most gourmet mustard today has wine vinegar in them and today I used a white wine vinegar from Italy to make my mustard.

This is a photo of the nettles we crushed getting to the mustard.

Crushed Nettles; Collateral Damage in Rose Canyon.

To get close to the mustard we had to trample young nettles. At least, Keith and I think these are nettles. They’ve taken over the field we were in and according to Keith have taken over the area where he has harvested mustard blossoms in previous years. I did read in Wikipedia that a mustard seed can survive up to 60 years underground if it is at the right depth and somehow, I think this patch will make a comeback. And for all you urban foragers out there, this area has enough nettles to feed an army.

This is a photo of nettles from the point of view of my knee.

Young Nettles about to burst into bloom.

This is a photo of a yellow nettle flower.

Yellow is always the color to warn you of danger.

This is a photo of a glass bowl full of freshly picked, bright yellow mustard flowers.

WARNING: Hot, spicy mustard flowers!

This is a photo of the ingredients in my mustard flower recipe.

This is just guesswork for me: I read the ingredients on a jar of store bought mustard and am leading the way with courage and confidence!


At the risk of sounding redundant, here is my:

“MUSTARD FLOWER MUSTARD” RECIPE:
3 cloves raw garlic
1 tablespoon turmeric (for flavor, color, health)
1 tablespoon coriander powder with cumin in it 1 to 1 ratio
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
6-8 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 huge handfuls of fresh picked mustard flowers

In a food processor, put the vinegar, spices and garlic and pulse it until it is minced fine. Add a handful of flowers at a time until all flowers are minced into the seasoning before adding water a little bit at a time. NOTE: The mustard is rough, not smooth. This is a high fiber mustard in case you were wondering.

This is a photo of a mini-food chopper with mustard making ingredients in it.

Step 1: Garlic, Spices, Salt and Vinegar

The turmeric will stain plastic and silicon spatulas so use old ones if you care about staining your kitchen ware. I used a mini food chopper for the task and it was perfectly fine.

This is a photo of mustard flowers in a food processor with spices.

Add a handful of flowers at a time and pulse.

This is an image of a food processor with ground spices and mustard flowers in it.

Don't be scared. Something good can still come out of this. Just add water.

Outcome: I’m not sure if this is edible or not. I lifted the lid to my mini-chopper and the way the scent hit my brain can only be described as a pick axe that was suddenly inserted up my nose with intent to split my brain in two. The intense burning in my sinuses only served to make me take a step backwards and say, “Whoa!” On exhale, my sinuses relaxed and I stopped for a moment to consider the following: store bought mustard is over processed; this is undiluted mustard flowers, picked two hours ago in Nature. Old fashioned plasters and poultices for chest colds and coughs came to mind and the medicinal smell that singed my nostril’s mucosal lining made me race over to my computer to search the internet on mustard flower for warnings and recipes. Guess what? There are no recipes for “mustard made from mustard flowers” that I could find in a reasonable amount of time. That was a bit unnerving. There are books for sale with foraging recipes, but overall a few pages in to this subject and I was done with research.

Basically, mustard flowers aren’t toxic and they won’t kill me. I moved on to storing it. There is one tool in my kitchen, besides the power tools, that I just LOVE and can’t do without: a wide mouth funnel. Treat yourself to one and let it be your forever-kitchen-friend.

This is a photo of a Kerr jar with a metal wide mouth funnel on it.

Wide mouth funnels are in my top ten kitchen items to love.

There are countless sites stating that mustard flowers are edible and have been used in love potions, salads and garnishes and even given as gifts to symbolize spring and abundance. Some sites remind us to be careful because some people are highly allergic to mustard. Other sites tell delightful and charming stories of how paths were created by explorers to use in the springtime to return from whence they came.

This is a photo of the jar of mustard I produced from the flowers I found in Rose Canyon.

Annie's Rose Canyon Wild Mustard

This wild mustard is down right SPICY HOT! Think horseradish. My mouth was on fire from just a little teeny-tiny taste. I’m not prone to getting hysterical when my mouth is on fire from the occasional chili pepper in food, and in fact, I do enjoy a bit of heat in my food…but this…this was off the charts hot. This reminded me of the spicy hot Chinese mustard that I don’t enjoy because it is just too hot for my liking.

In the end, I am thrilled that I foraged and made something unusual and gourmet.  I will make sure that everyone who visits my home gets a taste of my first batch of homemade garlic and white wine vinegar mustard.

So, be honest with me: Is this something you would make and eat? I’d like to know.