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The ancient Greek physicians held this plant in such esteem for the medicinal use of its seeds that they attributed its discovery to Æsculapius.
When it was first employed as a condiment is unknown, but it was most likely used in England by the Saxons. Probably the Romans, who were great eaters of mustard, pounded and steeped in new wine, brought the condiment with them to Britain.
Mustard gets its name from mustum (the must), or newly-fermented grape juice, and ardens (burning). It was originally eaten whole, or slightly crushed.
Gerard in 1623 says that:
'the seede of Mustard pounded with vinegar is an excellent sauce, good to be eaten with any grosse meates, either fish or flesh, because it doth help digestion, warmeth the stomache and provoketh appetite.'
Tusser mentions its garden cultivation and domestic use in the sixteenth century, and Shakespeare alludes more than once to it: Tewkesbury mustard is referred to in Henry IV . The herbalist Coles, writing in 1657, says:
'In Glostershire about Teuxbury they grind Mustard seed and make it up into balls which are brought to London and other remote places as being the best that the world affords.
All mustard was formerly made up into balls with honey or vinegar and a little cinnamon, to keep till wanted, when they were mixed with more vinegar. It was sold in balls till Mrs. Clements, of Durham, at the close of the eighteenth century, invented the method of preparing mustard flour, which long went under the name of Durham Mustard. John Evelyn recommends for mustard-making 'best Tewkesbury' or the 'soundest and weightiest Yorkshire seeds,' and tells us that the Italians in making mustard as a condiment mix orange and lemon peel with the black seed. At Dijon, where the best Continental mustard is made, the condiment is seasoned with various spices and savouries, such as Anchovies, Capers, Tarragon and Catsup of Walnuts or Mushrooms.
The Black Mustard is said to have been employed by the Romans as a green vegetable. The young leaves may be eaten as salad in place of those of the White variety, but are more pungent.
The Mustard Tree of Scripture is supposed by some authorities to be a species of Sinapis, closely resembling the Black Mustard, but as the latter never attains the dimensions of a tree, it has been conjectured that the plant in question is the Khardal of the Arabs, a tree abounding near the Sea of Galilee, which bears numerous branches and has small seeds, having the flavour and properties of Mustard.