At this time of year, before the vines acquire their green foliage, the countryside in Burgundy is resplendent with the bright yellow of fields planted with Colza or Rape seed, as can be seen around Gevrey Chambertin. Rape seed is used in the production of animal feed, edible vegetable oil, and biodiesel. In Burgundy because of its extensive and greater variety of commercial uses, it has taken the place of its cousin the mustard plant. Mustard is still grown in Burgundy, but to a more limited extent, and most of the mustard now made in Burgundy is from seeds grown on the plains of Canada.
It was not always like that. From the early Middle Ages the influence of the monks made Dijon the epicentre of a food culture founded on physical wellbeing. What prayer did for the soul, the medieval monks believed food and wine could do for the body. Fine wine, mustard, cassis, herbs, the use of garlic, were the mainstays of a diet which developed around the benefits of certain foods to physical health. Eating was not merely for sustenance, it had a function as a form of preventative medicine.
Mustard has been deemed to have many restorative properties :
"use it both inwardly and outwardly, to rub the nostrils, forehead and temples, to warm and quicken the spirits . . . the decoction of the seeds ... resists the malignity of mushrooms.... Being chewed in the mouth it oftentimes helps the tooth-ache. It is also used to help the falling off the hair. The seed bruised, mixed with honey, and applied, or made up with wax, takes away the marks and black and blue spots of bruises or the like . . . it helps also the crick in the neck...."
Nicholas Culpepper (on black mustard) (1649)
A Google search of 'Mustard Oil', will confirm that Culpepper's assessment of the health benefits has held good to the present day. Try adding mustard seeds to dishes where some seasoning is required, but particularly casseroles or stews. Liberally sprinkle as required at any stage of the cooking process.
Burgundy mustard seeds and a selection of Burgundy mustards are available to purchase in The Burgundy Shop.