I have an abundance of wild mustard growing around our homestead property. Let me show you how to harvest mustard seed, it’s not hard to do!
Around here, ‘mustard’ is almost a cuss word.
But I have to confess, I don’t get it!
I realize that they grow and spread like….well, a weed! But they are carefree and I love the yellow flowers. I also love that I can harvest the seeds easily in the late summer after the pods dry.
We have hundreds or more wild mustard plants that grow along the edge of our pasture. When they are in bloom, they are simply gorgeous.
The flowers are tiny and a bright almost-greenish-yellow. They grow a couple feet tall and the greens and flowers are edible. My kids love to pick them and gift them to me. They make a good wildflower bouquet.
When they wilt and dry later, they turn reddish-brown and I know they are ready for the taking.
The most important part of wild foraging is correctly identifying the plant you are sampling. Of course you don’t want to accidentally harvest a dangerous plant.
One of my favorite wildlife identification apps is “Seek” by iNaturalist. I use it all the time, it has endless homeschool implementations and is so useful for tasks like this. Of course since these mustards grew on my own property and I saw their flowers, I already knew what they were. But apps like Seek are helpful anyways.
Foraging for Wild Mustard
The mustard seed pods are thin and resemble tiny little thin bean pods, with small bumps along the pod. They are quite thin, and about an inch or 1.5 inches long, with several on a twig.
Early in the summer the pods are green and wet, and if you attempt to break them open the seeds will be little white specks. You cannot harvest these. Wait until the seeds are dark and the pods are brown or red or yellowish.
Harvesting the seeds seems difficult since the seeds are so small. But if the pods are properly dry, they are simple to process.
How I Harvest Mustard Seed:
Step 1: collecting the twigs
In the field I bring a paper sack and bend the dry twigs of the wild mustard plant inside while I clip, pull, or snap it off the plant. You can also try gently stripping your cupped hand down the stem to pull off the pods themselves.
It is important to do this over/inside a sack because many seeds will fall out during the process.
Step 2: release the seeds
Here are all the twigs and pods I collected this morning in a paper bag.
Once inside, I roll the bag closed and hit it with a rolling pin. Then I roll it with the rolling pin. Do this for a few minutes. This will break apart the pods and let the seeds drop into the bag.
Here is an excellent video tutorial I found showing this easy method.
Once I have broken the pods enough, I reach in and grab a handful of the twigs and shake it inside the bag. Then I pull out the handful of twigs and throw them back outside.
After getting rid of the the twigs and stems the inside of the bag just has broken pods and seeds left.
Step 3: sifting the seeds and chaff
I don’t have a perfect tool to separate the seeds from the remaining chaff and pod pieces yet.
What I did today was pour them through a colander to catch the big pieces. Then I tried pouring them through the tiny holes in my cheese grater and it worked okay but I needed a larger surface.
I ended up just hand picking the large pieces out and gently blowing away the remaining material. I didn’t get it all. That’s fine with me.
Step 4: storage and use
The seeds can now be stored in a spice jar. They will last longer left whole.
Or, you can grind them in a grinder or with a mortar and pestle to make powder.
I started grinding them with my pestle but got bored so I put them away to finish later. 🙂
The seeds are very pretty, mostly black with some reds.
We have lots more I could go harvest tomorrow. This was the first time I have ever tried to harvest mustard seed using this paper bag method! I think it was an easy quick way to do the job, what do you think?
Interesting Links about Wild Mustard:
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