The Rules of Mustard

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The Rules of Mustard
Canada, on the whole, has a penchant for apologizing and I wouldn’t be surprised if my homeland soon apologized for the lack of mustard on the shelves of French shops. The great French mustard drought of 2022 was in part responsible due to Canada’s crop shortage of mustard seed. That, combined with rampant stockpiling, are the reasons French épiceries are bereft of the tangy condiment. About 80% of the mustard seeds used in French mustard are grown in Canada’s prairie provinces. Mustard producers were well-aware of the Canadian crop damage and assumed they could make up the shortfall from mustard seeds from Russia and Ukraine. Of course, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made this impossible. Mustard Plant in Grant Park. Photo credit: mrjoro at Creative Commons The French, who pride themselves on the patrimony of their local “made in France” products, were a little shocked to learn that the Dijon for their vinaigrettes depended on a multinational supply chain. Most Europeans seems to be weathering the shortage, but some citizens stockpiled the condiment. In shops where mustard is still on the shelves, the quantity has been rationed to one pot per customer. For centuries, France’s national cuisine has depended on mustard for its zing. Typically, the French consume a kilo per person per year, making France the world’s largest consumer of mustard. Much of it is the Dijon variety, a condiment that comes with a nose-tingling kick, not the sweeter, neon-yellow sauce squeezed onto British and North American hot dogs, which  gets most of its, ahem, distinctive color from the addition of turmeric. Hot dogs © Jay Wennington on unsplash The dominant varieties of French mustard are the pale Dijon and the darker Bordeaux mustard. Dijonaise makes up 85% of mustard consumed in France. The best-known brands are Amora, Grey Poupon, and Maille. Nevertheless, even in Dijon, the capital of mustard, where mustard making dates back to 1634, even little jars are hard to find. Adding to the shortfall of Dijon mustard is the French rule – of course there’s a rule – that Dijon mustard must be made from brown seeds (Brassica juncea) or black ones (Brassica nigra). A total of 157,000 tons of these seeds come from Canada. Let’s scrape the bottom of the mustard barrel for a little history. Mustard seeds © Nisuda Nirmantha at unsplash

Lead photo credit : © Elevate at unsplash

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.


  • Beth Gersh-Nesic
    2022-09-01 06:14:24
    Beth Gersh-Nesic
    Thank you for this riveting article, Hazel! We in NY still have shelves full of mustard, Dijon, etc.. Sorry about that, France . . . Beth