Harvesting Mustard Seed
Before we left for vacation last week, the mustard plants looked like this:
A bunch of it was ready to harvest, but not quite all. We had already eaten a lot of the leaves back when they were nice and green, but this time around our harvest is about the seeds. The little yellow flowers you see at the very top of the plant end up producing long pods of tiny, brown mustard seeds. When the plant's leaves start to die back and the pods dry out, the seed is ready to harvest:
If you look closely at the pods above, you can see that a few are split open. The pods do that naturally after they dry out, so it's important to time your harvest so you cut them when most of the pods are dry and ready, but it's not so far gone that they shatter and you lose all the seeds. I cut a bunch before we left for vacation, but left many stalks that were still green.
We aren't the only ones trying to get at the mustard seeds. Birds like them too:
All the broken pods on the ground here were left by the little brown and red house finches who come by to eat up the seeds. They got a bunch while we were gone, but we have plenty, so it's not that big a deal.
Other birds who like mustard:
After cutting and bagging the rest of the stalks this morning, I pulled what was left of the mustard plants and gave about half of them to the chickens. They were pretty excited about it, especially since they are home-bound on account of the hawk.
Here's what we ended up with after the mustard harvest:
The six bags here are filled with cut stalks. When I cut them, I put them pod down/stem up in the bags to dry. Seeds that aren't quite ripe yet also get a chance to turn from green to brown as the stalks and pods dry out. Once they are fully dry, we'll need to thresh them to get all the seeds separated from the pods. We can beat the bags around a bit, and once they are dry, most seeds just fall out and are caught by the bag. A quick sorting by hand will take care of the rest.
We're not too far from homemade mustard!