This site works better with JavaScript enabled!

[ Plant part | Family | Aroma | Chemistry | Origin | Etymology | Discussion | Bottom ]

White Mustard (Sinapis alba L.)


pharmaceuticalSemen Erucae
Amharicነጭ ሰናፍጭ
Netch Senafich
Arabicخردل أبيض, خردل اصفر
خَرْدَل أَبْيَض
Khardal abyad, Khardal asfur
AzeriXardal ağı
Хардал ағы
BelarusianГарчыца, Белая гарчыца
Harčyca, Belaja harčyca
Bengaliসাদা সরষে
Sada sorse
BulgarianБял синап
Byal sinap
CatalanMostassa blanca
白芥菜 [baahk gaai choi], 白芥子 [baahk gaai jí]
Baahk gaai choi, Baahk gaai ji
白芥菜 [bái jiè cài], 白芥子 [bái jiè zǐ]
Bai jie cai, Bai jie zi
CroatianBijela gorušica
CzechHořčice bílá
DanishHvid Sennep
Hudhu revi
DutchWitte mosterd
EnglishWhite mustard seed
EsperantoSinapo, Blanka sinapo
EstonianValge sinep
Farsiخردل سفید
Khardel sefid
FrenchMoutarde blanche
GaelicSgeallan geal
GermanWeißer Senf
GreekΜουστάρδα, Σινάπι άγριο, Σινάπι άσπρο
Moustarda, Sinapi agrio, Sinapi aspro
Gujaratiસફેદ રાઇ
Saphed rai
Hebrewחרדל לבן
חַרְדָּל לָבָן
Hardal lavan
Hindiसफेद राई, पीली राई
Saphed rai, Pili rai
HungarianZöld mustármag, Angol mustár, Fehér mustár, Kerti mustár, Sárga mustár
IndonesianSesawi putih, Biji sesawi putih
ItalianSenape biancha
Korean백개자, 백겨자, 머스타드
Paekkaeji, Baeggyeoja, Meosutadu, Mosutadu
Laoມັດສະຕາດ, ສົ້ມສ້ຽນ
Matsatat, Som sian
LatinSinape, Sinapis
LatvianBaltā sinepe
LithuanianBaltoji garstyčia
MacedonianБел синап
Bel sinap
MongolianЦагаан гич
Tsagaan gich
Nepaliसऱ्सों, सर्‍सों
ईका, इका
Oriyaଧଳା ସୋରିଷ
Dhala sorissa
PolishGorczyca żółta, Gorczyca biała, Gorczyca jasna
PortugueseMostarda branca
Punjabiਚਿੱਟੀ ਰਾਈ
Chitti rai
RomanianMuștar albMuştar alb
RussianГорчица белая
Gorchitsa belaya
SerbianБела слачица, Горчица бела
Bela slačica, Gorčica bela
Sinhalaඑල අබ
Ela aba
SlovakHorčica biela
SlovenianBela gorčica
SpanishMostaza silvestre
Tigrinyaሰናፍጭ ጻዕዳ
Senafech tseda
TurkishBeyaz hardal tohum, Deve tüyü hardalı tohumları
TurkmenAk gorçitsa
Ак горчица
UkrainianГірчиця біла
Hirchitsya bila
UzbekOq gorchitsa, Oq xantal
Оқ горчица, Оқ хантал
VietnameseBạch giới tử
Bach gioi tu
WelshMwstart wen
Yiddishװײַסער זענעפֿט, װײַסער גאָרטשיצע, װײַסער מושטאַרדע
Vayser zeneft, Vayse gortshitse, Vayse mustarde

Sinapis alba: Flowers and unripe fruits
Flowers and ripening fruits of white mustard
Sinapis alba: White mustard seeds
White mustard seeds
Used plant part

Seeds (1 to 2 mm dia­meter). Although called white mustard, the seeds are actually tan to light brown.

Plant family

Brassicaceae (cabbage family).

Sensory quality

The dried seed do not have any fragrance, but exhibit a pungent taste after some time of chewing.

Main constituents

Besides proteins (28%) and fixed oil (35%), white mustard seeds contain approx. 2.5% sinalbin, a thioglycoside-like compound of glucose and p-hydroxybenzyl isothiocyanate (HO–C6H4–CH2–NCS). On cell damage, the enzyme myrosinase hydrolyzes the sinalbin and produces free p-hydroxybenzyl isothiocyanate, a pungent and non-volatile substance. Isothiocyanates are also the main ingredients in black mustard, horseradish, cress, rocket and wasabi, all of which belong to the same plant family.

Sinapis alba: Flowering top of white mustard plant
White mustard flowers and unripe fruits
Sinapis alba: White mustard flowers
White mustard flowers

White mustard prob­ably orig­inates from the Medi­terra­nean region, but various cultivars are grown in North­ern, Central and Eastern Europe. Related species are Chinese Mustard, S. cernua (syn. Brassica cernua), from China and rocket, Eruca sativa (syn. Brassica eruca), from Southern and Eastern Europe.


See black mustard.

Most names for white mustard contain an element white, bright which distinguishes white mustard from its black relatives. In some languages, the epithet is yellow instead, e. g., Arabic hardal asfur [خردل اصفر] (see also safflower), Finnish keltasinappi and Hungarian sárga mustár. Yet, in most of these languages, both denominations yellow mustard and white mustard are valid.

The colour adjective white is common to all Germanic languages (Old English hwīt, German weiß, Old High German hwīʒ, Yiddish vays [װײַס], Icelandic hvítur, Swedish vit). The Common Germanic root is HWEITA white, which itself can be related to an Proto-Indo–European root ḰWEI or ḰEU shine. The name of the cereal wheat comes from the same root and refers to the bright white colour of wheat flour. In North Germanic tongues, the names of garlic involve a white element.

Sinapis alba: White mustard (flowers and dry fruits)
White mustard (flowers and dry fruits)
Sinapis alba: White mustard flowers
White mustard, flowering plants
Sinapis alba: White mustard unripe fruits
White mustard plants bearing ripening fruits

Also, the Slavonic lan­guages feature closely related words for white: Polish biały, Slovak biele, Russian bielyj [белый], Bela­rusian bely [белы], and Bul­garian byal [бял] all have a Com­mon Sla­vonic root form BEL’ white. The Baltic terms Lithua­nian baltas and Latvian balts belong to the same group, as do the English toponyms Baltic (perhaps from a desig­nation White Sea for the Baltic Sea) and Belarus (white Russia). Also in English, related words are found, which donote colours in wider sense: bleach, blond, blue (see also blue fenu­greek) and even, most sur­prisingly, black (see nigella). The Proto-Indo–European root can be recon­structed as BʰEL fire, shine. The Romance forms Italian bianco, Portuguese branco, French blanc and Spanish blanco are actually Germanic loans. The Common Germanic root BLANKA shiny is still found in Modern English in words like blink, blaze or blank (meaning empty, as white is devoid of colours). Traced further back, the terms are seen to derive from the versatile root BʰEL discussed in the previous paragraph.

The original Latin term for white was albus, which is conserved only in the East Romance tongues (Romanian alb). The Proto-Indo–European form can be reconstructed as H₂ELBʰO white; yet it has exclusively Western distribution, being found in toponyms like the river Elbe and the Alps mountains, moreover Old Greek alphos [ἀλφός] white leprosity (cf. Albino) Therefore, it has been suspected to be rather a loan from an Old European tongue. The word also underlies Old Norse álfr and Old English ælf frightening supernatural creature and its Modern English translation elf. Elves seem to have been associated with fog, thus the whitish name. In the German Nibelungenlied, there is a character Alberich belonging to a group of dwarves (generally similar to elves in Nordic mythology) called Nibelungs (Old Norse njōl, Latin nebula fog, mist).

Elves appear often in pre-Christian Germanic traditions; they were considered a powerful, dangerous race harrassing humans, as exemplified by Old English ylfa gescot sudden pain or illness (literally elf-shot, as if caused by an invisible elven archer) and German Albtraum nightmare (literally elf-dream, invoking the image of a powerful sprite sitting on a sleeper’s chest). A negative and condemning view on elves is found in the Beowulf poem, where eotenas ond ylfe ond orcnēas giants and elves and evil spirits are numbered among the descendents of Cain, the primeval murderer.

English elf almost went extinct over the centuries, and was revived in the century, at the same time shifting in meaning to friendly, small-sized spirit. Yet even these diminished later elves have linguistic ties to their more powerful cousins of old: Cute Oberon, the Elvish King in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, still carries the same name as the more warlike Alberich (Old French Alberon).

Selected Links

Ilkas und Ullis Kochecke: Senf ( via A Pinch of Mustard ( A Pinch of Mustard ( The Epicentre: Mustard Medical Spice Exhibit: Mustard Transport Information Service: Mustard Sorting Sinapis names ( Pflanzen des Capitulare de Villis: Senf ( Herbs by Linda Gilbert: Mustard Fallot: Mustard with a Strong Tradition Mustard (

Sinapis alba: Flowering white mustard plants
Flowering white mustard plants
Sinapis alba/Brassica nigra: Moutarde de Dijon, Edmont Fallot
Dijon mustard (flavoured with cassis and tarragon, respectively) from Dijon’s expert mustard manufacturer Edmont Fallot
White mustard seeds are mostly used for the preparation of mustard pastes, for which purpose they are superior to black mustard, because their pungent principle (p-hydroxy­benzyl iso­thiocyanate) is non-volatile and stable to hydrolysis in acidic environment. Mustard is usually made of crushed or ground mustard seeds, vinegar (to stabilize the pungency) and wine (the selection of which is crucial to the mustard’s taste). Frequently sugar or honey, fresh herbs and dried spices are added to modify the taste; most common is addition of tarragon. Some brands of mustard contain turmeric, which gives a bright yellow colour.
Sinapis alba/Brassica nigra: Colman’s Mustard
Colman’s is the most popular and renowned type of mustard in Great Britain

Mustard paste is a common condiment for boiled or broiled meat in Central and Northern Europe (and in the US); it also is often used for sauces. As mustard seeds contain emul­gators, mustard does not only improve flavour, but also stability of emulgated sauces (e. g., sauce hollandaise, see tarragon). See borage for another example, Frankfurt Green Sauce.

Even today, the mustards produced in Britain, France and Germany have a distinct style. British mustard is mostly produced by the Colman method, which is there the dominant mustard technique since about 200 years. It uses black mustard, which is finely ground and sieved, together with small amounts of white mustard and wheat flour, which improves the texture. The mixture is traditionally sold dry, and mixed with water shortly before usage; the flavour develops within 10 minutes (see wasabi for an equal procedure in Japan). Obviously, this mustard contains no further ingredients besides water and mustard powder; it tastes pungent and hot, but very clear. Today, Colman mustard can also be bought already mixed.

In France, there are two different traditional types of mustard pastes. The pale Dijon mustard is made from decorticated seeds of black mustard, finely ground, that are mixed with sour grape juice (verjus) and salt. It is pungent, sour and quite salty, and fits very well to broiled or roasted meats. Dijon is the kind of mustard called for by the numerous recipes of sauces prepared in France. The milder Bordeaux type mustard, on the other hand, is made of white mustard seeds with their seed coats not removed, and is in fact darker than the Dijon type. It contains vinegar, sugar and numerous herbs and spices, for example tarragon. There are also less traditional mustard varieties in France that owe their particular flavour to additional ingredients like wine of Champagne or fiery Basque chiles.

Similarly, Germany can offer two main types of traditional mustard pastes. Düsseldorf, Germany’s mustard capital, produces a pungent mustard similar to Dijon mustard (Löwensenf lion’s mustard), which is made from pure black mustard seeds. The sweet mustard from Bavaria is prepared from coarsely ground white mustard seeds, honey and various herbs; that’s the mustard to eat with the typical Bavarian whitish sausages prepared from veal (Weißwurst). Furthermore, a large number of mild, smooth mustards is produced from ground white mustard seeds, often flavoured with tarragon.

Usage of white mustard seeds as a spice is relatively minor, but the whole seeds are popular in pickled vegetables; for this usage, they may be combined with allspice and bay leaves. The ground seeds are a popular spice in England, where they are mixed with water and added to stews and sauces.

Unicode Encoded Validate using the WDG validator Validate using the VALIDOME validator

Top   Plant part   Family   Aroma   Chemistry   Origin   Etymology   Discussion   Bottom