Winters in rural north India have always been defined by the lovely yellow mustard fields! And, it no different at Aanandaa permaculture farm. Mustard is a fairly hardy plant, and we have been able to grow it in both well irrigated as well as water starved areas of the property. We usually sow it around Diwali (November), along with the wheat crop, and by December -January the fields are aglow with bright yellow flowers. These flowers are great for bees too, and the honey coming from these flowers has a 'mustardy' flavour to it.
Even on a gloomy grey winter morning, the mustard fields have the ability to cheer you up!
The mustard or sarson plant has multiple uses. It's leaves are used to make the famous sarson ka saag along with makki ki roti (from corn harvested earlier). Its seed us used to make mustard oil which is used in Indian cooking. Mustard seeds themselves are used as a condiment in Indian cooking and split seed is used in pickles. Lastly the mustard seed can be processed into delicious mustard sauce to have with pizzas and sandwiches. We use mustard in all these ways!
The mustard crop takes about 110-140 days to mature. So planted in October, it would be ready to harvest in February or so. Of course throughout its lifecycle we would have take some of the younger leaves to cook into Sarson ka Saag. As the plant matures, the flowers turn into pods carrying the mustard seed.
The crop is harvested by cutting it with a sickle close to the ground. It is them tied up in bundles and left to dry in the sun for 5-6 days.
Finally, it is beaten with a stick atop a tarpaulin spread on the ground. This separated the seed from the chaff. I believe the chaff is mixed with animal fodder, and the cows enjoy eating it.
By March we have oil extracted from a portion of our crop, while we keep some seed for cooking, pickling and making mustard sauce! More about that in another blog.