If you’re planning a picnic or a cookout, you may have already gotten the burgers, hot dogs, buns, chips and sodas. But don’t forget the mustard! A hot dog just isn’t the same without that squiggly little line of mustard down the middle!

Before it becomes the bright yellow condiment you’re familiar with, mustard starts out as tiny seeds that are white, brown or black. Those tiny mustard seeds eventually grow into mustard plants that can be quite tall!

Some mustard plants are grown for their leaves, which are eaten as a vegetable in some parts of the world. Most mustard plants, however, are harvested for their tiny seeds.

Mustard plants are grown all over the world. However, 85 percent of the world’s mustard seeds are grown in Canada, Montana and North Dakota.

When thousands of mustard seeds are crushed, they form mustard powder. Mustard powder can be used alone as a spice or added to other ingredients to make mustard.

For example, mustard powder can be mixed with water, wine or vinegar — plus other flavorings or spices — to make many varieties of the pasty condiment we call mustard. A typical eight-ounce jar of mustard requires about 1,000 mustard seeds!

Mustard seeds naturally contain enzymes that give mustard its signature sharp flavor. Depending on the liquids and spices used, mustard can be mild to extremely hot.

The specific ingredients used to make mustard can also affect its color. If brown or black mustard seeds are used or if certain types of wine are mixed with mustard powder, the resulting mustard may be gold or brown.

The bright yellow color of the common yellow mustard popular in the United States comes from the addition of a yellow spice called “turmeric.” “American mustard,” as it is known around the world, was first introduced by George T. French in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis.

In addition to being a popular condiment, yellow mustard is also a primary ingredient in many other foods, such as potato salad, barbecue sauces and salad dressings. Mustard seeds and powder are also used in many other cuisines, making it one of the most-used spices around the world.

The ancient Romans were likely the first to make and use mustard as a condiment. Mixing ground mustard seeds with grape juice (called “must”), they made mustum ardens or “burning must.” The word mustard likely stems from a shortening of mustum ardens.

The Romans eventually took mustard seeds to France, where the city of Dijon became a famous center of mustard making. In 1777, Maurice Grey partnered with Auguste Poupon to form Grey-Poupon, a gourmet mustard maker with a special recipe featuring white wine.

Today, grocery store condiment aisles carry mustard in a wide variety of strengths and flavors. Whether you crave plain yellow mustard on a hot dog or gourmet Grey-Poupon Dijon mustard on a deli sandwich, you’re sure to find a mustard that’ll tickle your taste buds!


14 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (11 votes, avg. 3.27 out of 5)
  1. Hey wonderopolis!
    I love how you are telling us what things are made of. It is good for me to know what is in the condiments I am eating on my corn dog! :)
    Does tomorrow have to do with that game duck duck goose moms taught us?

    • Happy Saturday, Torey/MC! Mustard is YUMMY on corn dogs (and hot dogs, and hamburgers, and pretzels, and…)! You’ll have to wait and see about tomorrow’s Wonder…it’ll be a real TALE! :-)

  2. I think, I’m not sure about this, but in Wisconsin they have a national mustard museum. :) That would be really cool!

  3. Hi Wonderopolis!

    Mustard isn’t my favorite condiment, but it tastes great with ketchup. I never knew that there were yellow mustard plants that grow. At first when I looked at the picture, I thought they were regular flowers!

    I know that sometimes when we go to restaurants, my little sister asks for mustard on her hamburger, and then they bring her this white liquid that is really spicy. So now my mom always has to ask for yellow mustard. I also think it’s cool how they use tumeric to make it the kind of mustard we know and love.

    I think that I know what tomorrows wonder will be…. does it have anything to do with the game, Duck Duck Goose? I can’t wait to see the video tomorrow, I think that it will be about some little kids playing the game.

    • Hi, Meredith/MC! Thanks for letting us know how much you learned from this Wonder! There are lots of different types of mustards, but good ol’ yellow mustard is most kids’ favorite, we think!

      You and Torey may be on the right track with your guesses about tomorrow’s Wonder…guess you’ll have to check back to see if you both are right! :-)

  4. i also don’t really like mustard but i was surprised that you can mix the mustard powder with water to get a spicier mustard that’s so cool i am going to check back more often

  5. I knew that there was such thing as a mustard plant, but I didn’t know that you made mustard out of it!!! That’s pretty cool! :)

    I love Wonderopolis! Maybe you could ✎ about how cartoons are made sometime!

  6. I don’t like mustard, but I like this wonder anyway. I never knew that there was many different ways to make your homemade mustard.

    • Hi Kay, thanks for WONDERing about mustard, even though it’s not your favorite condiment! We sure are glad you now know more about it, even if it was tough for you to stomach! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


  • Wonderopolis on Facebook
  • Wonderopolis on Pinterest
  • Print

Have you ever wondered…

  • What is mustard made of?
  • How many mustard seeds are in a typical jar of mustard?
  • What gives yellow mustard its bright coloring?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Are you hungry yet? Today’s Wonder of the Day presents the perfect opportunity to head to the kitchen for some up-close experimentation with mustard. Make yourself a hot dog or a deli sandwich and enjoy the taste of mustard firsthand!

If you want to use mustard as an ingredient in a delicious dipping sauce for chicken tenders, try this recipe for a honey-mustard dipping sauce.

You can also use mustard as edible paint! Use a plate as your “palette” and vegetables, like carrot sticks or broccoli, as your brushes.

Pour a bit of mustard, ketchup and ranch dressing on the plate and paint a picture good enough to eat. This activity also makes a healthy after-school snack!


Still Wondering

Visit National Geographic Xpeditions’ Spices in Your Favorite Foods lesson to learn about the importance of spices in history and the significance of spices in the foods you eat.


Wonder What’s Next?

Your mom said we should give you a hint about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day. OK, here you go: duck, duck…?

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.