Since many of my Allergy Friendly recipes use a medley of spices, I figured that knowing a tad bit more about them would make first-time users less trepiditious. The idea took seed when Susan, an awesome mom and the blogger behind ‘Food Allergy Chronicles’ mentioned the fact that I use a huge variety of spices in my dishes – so, thanks Susan 🙂
Spices and condiments enhance the flavor of a dish but are almost always entirely optional. A quick note about the difference between ‘spices’ and condiments’ -usually spices are used to season a dish during the process of cooking for e.g. cinnamon in baking whereas condiments are used at the table to suit individual tastes like ketchup. Also, spices are oftentimes a part of a plant/tree like seeds, bark, fruit for e.g mustard seeds or nutmeg while condiments are prepared concoctions like mustard that is made from mustard seeds.
Those with multiple food allergies should always be wary of any new ingredient even if it is used in minute quantities. Furthermore, if you want to experiment with a new ingredient – talk to your allergist first and start with miniscule quantities.
So here goes, I am going to start with a post about the source of one of my favorite spices, the mustard seed. Obviously the mustard seed comes from the mustard plant – the two parts of this plant that are commonly used in cooking are the seeds and the leaves. Some common forms of culinary usage mustard seeds
Mustard seeds: As Wikipedia puts it these are ‘small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black. The seeds can come from three different plants: black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown mustard (B. juncea), and white mustard (B. hirta/Sinapis alba).‘ I usually use brown mustard seeds in my recipes as a spice. Mustard seeds are rich in proteins and oil (and the much talked about Omega 3 fatty acids). In Asian cooking these seeds are often used to season dishes by adding a small amount to hot oil and letting them splutter hence releasing flavor before adding the vegetables, meat etc.
Ground Mustard Seeds: Mustard seeds can also be ground and used in various dishes. Brown mustard seeds is coarsely ground at home to enhance the flavor of vegetables, fish, chutneys, pickels and more. Commercially, a variety of products are available made from ground mustard seeds including dear old bottle of yellow mustard or honey mustard that graces almost every American fridge 🙂
Mustard Oil: The oil extracted from this seed is used in large parts of South Asia and has recently become the choice of some gourmet chefs in some dishes in the United States too as this article elucidates: ‘American Chefs Discover Mustard Oil’ 🙂 It is a dense oil with a low smoking point and strong pungent smell and is used to sauté, deep fry and even as a finishing oil in the raw form. The high euricic acid in Mustard Oil helps contribute to it the pungent albeit flavorful smell. The detrimental health effects of high euricic acid in oil has been much debated upon but has not been substantiated without a doubt in humans. It has remained in the realm of experiments on lab rats. However, in response to this fear – low euricic acid and 0 % euricic acid mustard oil is commercially available for use in cooking. One such brand conveniently avaliable on Amazon is Mondo Food Mustard Oil.
Mustard Seed Allergy
Yes – one could potentially be allergic to anything and seeds are particularly notorious for being allergenic. The major allergens in mustard seeds are heat resistant so cooking does not make it any safer. Those with multiple food allergies should be particularly careful before they start using any new ingredient including mustard seeds. France has the highest incidence of mustard seed allergy. The European Union and recently Canada has recognized sesame and mustard seeds as major allergens. In the US, statistics is not available for mustard seed allergies because it is relatively rare but not unheard of. Hence, there has been a push towards including sesame seeds and mustard seeds in the list of top food allergens. I found these articles particularly informative: ‘Allergy to Mustard Seeds‘ and ‘Why add sesame and mustard seed to food labeling‘.
For further reading: