Did you know? Canada grows more than 90 per cent of the world’s mustard seed — mostly in Saskatchewan, the real mustard capital of the world. Canada is also home to the largest and oldest mustard mill in the world.

Cultivated for at least 5,000 years, mustard is the oldest condiment known to man and is the world’s third most important spice after salt and pepper.

Mustard is made from crushing the seeds of the mustard plant. The tiny seeds, about 250,000 per pound, are very pungent. There are two main types of mustard seeds: The relatively mild white or yellow mustard seed and the stronger brown or Oriental mustard seed.

To make the condiment, the seeds are crushed into a powder and mixed with liquid (wine, vinegar, beer, water) and various spices, such as turmeric, to form a paste. Brown mustard has a dark brown seed coat and is used in Dijon-style mustards and also used in combination with yellow in English-style mustard.

Prepared mustards can range from mild yellow to hot peppery brown to very spicy mustards. No Canadian fridge is likely to be without a least one jar of this quintessential condiment. And it goes well beyond a hamburger and sandwich spread. Here are just a few suggestions:

• Mustard is a must with ham and wonderful with pork — combine equal amount of mustard with maple syrup or honey and brush on a ham or pork roast, tenderloin or chops near the end of baking or grilling.

• Brush spicy horseradish mustard on a beef roast, then press coarsely crushed black pepper into mustard before grilling.

Herb Mustard Sauce
This simple sauce is good with grilled salmon, asparagus or spooned over potatoes. Makes about 1/2 cup (125 ml).

• 2 tbsp (30 ml) butter
• 4 green onions, chopped
• 1 /4 cup (60 ml) Dijon-style mustard
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) honey
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp (5 ml) dried tarragon leaves
• Salt and pepper

In a microwaveable bowl, combine butter and green onions. Microwave at High for 30 to 60 seconds to melt butter and soften onions. Stir in mustard, honey, lemon juice and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

• Prepared mustard loses flavour and heat as it ages, even when unopened. Purchase small jars, refrigerate after opening and use within one year to preserve quality.

• The mustard plant is a member of the Brassica family. Other members include the cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts — all well known for their nutritional benefits.

Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.