Mustard’s in the Air

Starting sometime in February, we begin to see mustard flowering everywhere, its yellow blossoms covering entire fields or found in patches between rows of vines or nearby apple trees. However, what is most noticeable about mustard is the subtle, very delicate scent that comes as such a surprise this time of year. It seems to be the only thing in the air and it carries the promise of Spring.

Before moving to Sebastopol, my wife and I came from Boston to visit in February 1989. I remember mostly identifying this sweet scent in the air. I didn’t know what it was then, but this scent still makes California seem fresh and inviting, a counterpoint to the winter weather in the East where February often seems like the longest month of the year.

I have mustard growing in the yard.


I have mustard greens growing in the garden. Mustard is a brassica, related to broccoli, cauliflower and kale, which also grow well this time of year. Some mustard greens have very large purplish leaves and a sharply bitter taste that I like, a bit like a moment of horseradish. I was also growing mizuna as a salad green. It went to seed in February and its smaller yellow flowers have such a nice scent that I cut off the tops and put them in a vase in the kitchen.