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|Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 4:03 pm Post subject: MUSTARD
|FIVE THINGS: MUSTARD
It's hard to imagine a summer barbecue without that staple condiment, mustard. But there's more to mustard than meets the eye, and Canada is a mustard seed superpower. Matthew Campbell reports
1 Yellow gold
It's a good time to be a mustard farmer. A drought in Europe, rising demand for mustard in food processing, and the march of canola fields across Saskatchewan,
Manitoba and Alberta
(taking mustard crops out of production) have doubled prices for mustard seed in the last two years. Though there's no mustard futures market, farmers can now get as much as 54 cents a pound for yellow mustard seeds, which eventually become the stuff that's slathered on hot dogs and hamburgers. With 176,000 hectares of mustard still under cultivation, the good times are rolling for mustard men (and women) across the
2 Taking the world by squeeze
Canada is a mustard superpower, producing over two-thirds of the world's mustard seed, 98 per cent of it on the Prairies. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, last year those exports were worth $93.2-million, up from $62.7-million in 2006. The U.S. takes 43 per cent of the seeds, with sausage-mad Belgium and Germany accounting for another 15 per cent each. Following behind them as a destination is Japan at 6 per cent, where mustard seeds go into wasabi, and on to millions of plates. In addition to feeding the world its mustard, Canada is, unsurprisingly, almost mustard-independent; the country imported just 1,500 tonnes of seeds in 2007, while exporting 168,000.
3 A seed for every taste
Mustard seeds come in three varieties: yellow, which go into "ballpark" mustard along with food-manufacturing (to bind oil and water in processed meat, for example); brown seeds, which are the basis of Dijon-style mustards; and what the industry calls oriental seeds, for wasabi and other Asian condiments.
Traditionally oriental seeds were cheapest - about half the price of yellow - but the gap has closed considerably as sushi, and the wasabi that gives it its kick, become ever more popular. Today, oriental seeds are only about 10 cents a pound behind their more popular yellow cousins, with brown seeds in the middle.
4 Pardon me? Did you say Saskatchewan?
Fancy mustards entered the pop-cultural canon as a sign of snootiness when Mike Myers, playing the long-haired rock star wannabe Wayne Campbell, asked a passenger in a passing limousine, "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?" in Wayne's World. But even that most rarefied of condiments has a humble Canadian origin, not unlike Mr. Myers himself. Although France used to produce lots of mustard seed, today the brown seeds used in Grey Poupon and other Dijon mustards produced there are exclusively from Canada. The French touch? Vinegar, traditionally derived from the juice of unripe grapes.
5 Mustard spray, anyone?
Mustard's obvious use as a condiment may be just the beginning. Recent research has suggested that the seeds could have a mind-boggling array of applications beyond the kitchen table. Scientists are working on commercializing mustard as a natural pesticide. Efforts are also under way to isolate the proteins within mustard seeds as a food additive. Mustard, it turns out, also has anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties, the applications of which, said Tom Halpenny, the owner of Mustard Capital Inc. in Saskatoon, could be "a lot more than just hot dogs."
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