Brassica nigra or black mustard cultivation in the vegetable garden

WE GROW WHITE MUSTARD’S TWIN SISTER:  BRASSICA NIGRA

Within the world of  Brassicaceae  we can lose ourselves among all the heterogeneous species that this genus encompasses. To bring your mind closer to the example, this family is home to no more and no less than 3,709 species. We dedicate this article exclusively to one of them, scientifically known as  Brassica nigra  and commonly as black mustard .

I personally love mustard. I was already able to demonstrate it with the article on how to create mustard sauce , in which we used white mustard ( Sinapis alba)  as the main ingredient. We start from 0, that is, growing it in our orchard or garden, until we can make a sauce.

In this case, with black mustard ( Brassica nigra ) we are not going to give it the same use, as it is used as a dry or ground spice. This is because, for the western palate , black mustard is too “strong”, and only a very small amount is used.

Brassica nigra . Photography: Magnus Manske

KEYS TO GROWING BRASSICA NIGRA  IN OUR ORCHARD OR GARDEN 

BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS

We can see  Brassica nigra  throughout the year (depending on the climate, yes) since it is an annual herbaceous. It is made up of a main stem and not many branches. Its leaves are quite large compared to the size that the plant can reach.

Black mustard tends to grow quite intensively if it finds the right means, and despite being considered herbaceous, it can easily exceed one meter in height .

CLIMATE AND TEMPERATURE DATA

Like many other aromatic or medicinal plants,  Brassica nigra  is typical of the Mediterranean climate. Here we can find high temperatures in summer, mild in winter, little rainfall and soils with low organic matter content.

However, as of today we can find black mustard almost anywhere, as long as it is not very limited by the weather. For example, in some tropical or sub-tropical climates as well as continental ones, this crop can also grow and develop.

Keep in mind that the production cycle lasts around 4 months (120 days). With pleasant temperatures, its cultivation becomes easier and more seeds are produced. However, it also withstands low temperatures with relative ease.

The ideal sowing time for gardens and land in the Mediterranean area will be early spring. In cold areas, cultivation can be delayed a little, in order to avoid the last blows of cold temperatures that can cause frost.

Brassica nigra flowering. Photography: Matt Lavin

SOIL OR SUBSTRATE CHARACTERISTICS

We find ourselves with a quite rustic plant as far as the choice of soils is concerned. It has some preferences , yes. Brassica nigra  has been shown to  root best in deep, cool, medium consistency limestone soils .

When choosing the best  crop in rotation ,  consider that it is a cruciferous, so the scheme would be as follows:

It does not always work well to combine other brassicas, since they usually have the same nutritional requirements and in the long term they affect the soil.

IRRIGATION AND SUBSCRIBER

Starting with the fertilizer , it is not necessary to complicate your life, since with a simple fertilizer rich in organic matter to restore the properties of the soil and microorganisms, it will be more than enough to develop the complete cycle of black mustard.

When preparing the soil, it is necessary that it be deeply soft to promote the growth of its roots, since its roots reach areas where other plants do not access. With this we will be able to distribute the organic matter provided and improve the physical properties of the soil (aeration, granulation, water retention, etc.).

As for irrigation, it  does not need continuous or very bulky water supplies. It is used to periods of drought (some say that it improves its essential oil content ). In our case, it is advisable to provide a minimum amount of water, those that hydrate the land without flooding, and reactivate irrigation once we see that the land dries up again.

HARVEST

Brassica nigra seeds . Photography: Sanjay Acharya

From 40 days after the seed germinates, flowering begins. Everything will also depend on the climate in which we find ourselves and the accumulation of cold hours. Fruiting is fast (July or August, as a general rule), the seeds begin to blacken (remember that it is black mustard) and the stems turn yellow (they lose chlorophyll).

SOME PESTS AND DISEASES TO CONTROL

With the cultivation of  Brassica nigra we can find aphids (A phis brassicae ), coleopterans that live in the ground ( Psylliodes chrysocephalus) , the cabbage caterpillar (P ieris brassicae ), some hymenopterans such as  Athalia colibri. Among the diseases of black mustard we can find the genus  Pythium  and other root fungi.

ITS INTERESTING ACTIVE PRINCIPLE

A secret that Brassica nigra  (black mustard) keeps  is its allylglucosinolate content  . Although this “ingredient” is only part of 1% of the total mustard, in contact with the enzyme myrosinase, it produces the pungent compound that we are all used to. In the case of radish (where we could see its cultivation here ) or wasabi, they also produce it.

It is a self-defense technique of the plant to prevent animals from feeding on it. Being so spicy, many living beings prefer to find another way to eat.

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