Mustard is an important crop grown by nearly 3,000 Saskatchewan farmers on approximately 240,000 ha annually. Saskatchewan is the world’s largest exporter of mustard seed, and production is focussed on three types derived from two different species: yellow mustard (Sinapis alba), and brown and oriental mustard (Brassica juncea). Canada’s first mustard cultivation occurred in Alberta in 1936; however, production has since moved to Saskatchewan, with almost 90% of the country’s annual 227,000 metric tonnes grown in the province. All mustard types are members of the Cruciferous family and have yellow flowers with four petals. Individual plants can have over 200 flowers during their life cycle, and each plant can produce thousands of seeds. Mustard seeds contain oil, protein, fibre, and glucosinolates; the latter break down in the presence of water to impart the hot and pungent tastes associated with mustard. As well, yellow mustard seed contains mucilage, which is an important food industry ingredient.
Mustard is mostly used as a condiment. Yellow varieties give rise to traditional North American hot dog mustard, which has a mild sweetish taste. Aromatic and spicy Dijon mustard is derived from brown mustard; and English mustard is a mixture of brown and yellow, making it both hot and pungent. Japanese cuisine employs oriental mustard in the making of wasabi, and some Asian countries use oriental mustard oil for cooking. Yellow mustard has many other uses, most of which are associated with its mucilage. The mucilage acts as an emulsifier which helps suspend oils in water and prevents the separation of these ingredients in salad dressings and mayonnaise; it also has the ability to absorb liquid in food, helping keep prepared meats firm and moist during cooking. Mustard can also act as a preservative because the breakdown products of the glucosinolates inhibit the growth of certain yeasts, moulds and bacteria. Certain compounds found in mustard have been reported to decrease both blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
Saskatoon is home to the only mustard breeding program in North America. The Saskatchewan Research Centre, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, breeds all three types of mustard for the condiment market, and is working on developing mustard varieties suited to non-food applications such as biodiesel and other industrial products.
The Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission was formed on January 1, 2004, and collects a refundable levy of 0.05% on gross sales of mustard seed in Saskatchewan. This check-off will be used for research and development of the mustard industry; as a result, mustard seed production and processing should increase in Saskatchewan over the next ten to fifteen years.