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Brassica juncea (L.) Czern.

Mustard greens, Leaf mustard, Indian mustard, Rai, Brown mustard

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Young tender leaves of mustard greens are used in salads or mixed with other salad greens. Older leaves with stems may be eaten fresh, canned or frozen, for potherbs, and to a limited extent in salads. Mustard greens are often cooked with ham or salt pork, and may be used in soups and stews. Although widely and extensively grown as a vegetable, it is being grown more for its seeds which yield an essential oil and condiment. Easier to grow than Black Mustard (B. nigra), it has nearly replaced it in brown mustard preparations since 1945. Mustard Oil is one of the major edible oils in India, the fixed oil content of rai varying between 28.6% and 45.7%. Oil is also used for hair oil, lubricants and, in Russia, as a substitute for olive oil. Adding 1.1–2.2% mustard oil to fresh apple cider retards fermentation. Seed residue is used as cattle feed and in fertilizers (Reed, 1976).

Folk Medicine

Reported to be anodyne, apertif, diuretic, emetic, rubefacient, and stimulant, Indian Mustard is a folk remedy for arthritis, footache, lumbago, and rheumatism (Duke and Wain 1981). Seed used for tumors in China. Root used as a galactagogue in Africa. Sun-dried leaf and flower are smoked in Tanganyika to "get in touch with the spirits." Ingestion may impart a body odor repellent to mosquitoes (Burkill, 1966). Believed to be aperient and tonic, the volatile oil is used as a counterirritant and stimulant. In Java the plant is used as an antisyphilitic emmenagogue. Leaves applied to the forehead are said to relieve headache (Burkill, 1966). In Korea, the seeds are used for abscesses, colds, lumbago, rheumatism, and stomach disorders. Chinese eat the leaves in soups for bladder, inflammation or hemorrhage. Mustard oil is used for skin eruptions and ulcers (Perry, 1980).


Mustard greens are high in Vitamin A and C, and iron; a cupful (140 gm) providing an adult with ca 60% of his recommended daily Vitamin A requirement, all the Vitamin C requirement and about one-fifth the iron. Per 100 g, the leaf is reported to contain 24 calories, 91.8 g H2O, 2.4 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 4.3 g total carbohydrate, 1.0 g fiber, 1.1 g ash, 160 mg Ca, 48 mg P, 2.7 mg Fe, 24 mg Na, 297 mg K, 1825 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.06 mg thiamine, 0.14 mg riboflavin, 0.8 mg niacin, and 73 mg ascorbic acid. Per 100 g, the root is reported to contain 38 calories, 85.2 g H2O, 1.9 g protein, 0.3 g fat, 8.8 g total carbohydrate, 2.0 g fiber, 3.8 g ash, 111 mg Ca, 65 mg P, 1.6 mg Fe, 447 mg K, 45 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.05 mg thiamine, 0.12 mg riboflavin, 0.7 mg niacin, and 21 mg ascorbic acid. Per 100 g, the seed is reported to contain 6.2 g H2O, 24.6 g protein, 35.5 g fat, 28.4 g total carbohydrate, 8.0 g fiber, and 5.3 g ash. Seed sterols contain 19.2% brassicasterol (9.1% esterified), 23.6% free campesterol (34.0% esterified), 57.2% sitosterol (55.2% esterified), 1.7% esterified D-5-avenasterol, and a trace of D-7-stigmasterol. Contains the glucosinolate sinigrin (potassium myronate) and the enzyme myrosin (myrosinase); sinapic acid; sinapine (sinapic acid choline ester); fixed oils (25 to 37%) consisting mainly of glycerides of erucic, eicosenoic, arachidic, nonadecanoic, behenic, oleic, and palmitic acids, among others; proteins (e.g., globulins); and mucilage (Leung, 1980). Sinigrin on hydrolysis by myrosin (myrosinase) yields allyl isothiocyanate, glucose, and potassium bisulfate. Allyl isothiocyanate is volatile; its yield from B. juncea is 0.25 to 1.4% (usually ca 0.9%). Other minor volatile components that are also set free by enzymatic hydrolysis include methyl, isopropyl, sec-butyl, butyl, 3-butenyl, 4-pentenyl, phenyl, 3-methylthiopropyl, benzyl, and b-phenylethyl isothiocyanates. Allyl isothiocyanate is irritant, rubefacient and vesicant. It is also lachrymatory and has counterirritant properties when greatly diluted (e.g., 1 in 50). It should not be tasted or inhaled when undiluted. It is one of the most toxic essential oils. Isothiocyanates such as those present in mustard have been implicated in endemic goiter (hypothyroidism with thyroid enlargement). They also have been reported to produce goiter in experimental animals. Volatile mustard oil has strong antimicrobial (bacteria and fungi) properties. Sinigrin has been reported to be toxic to certain insect larvae but harmless to others.


Perennial herb, usually grown as an annual or biennial, up to 1 m or more tall; branches long, erect or patent; lower leaves petioled, green, sometimes with a whitish bloom, ovate to obovate, variously lobed with toothed, scalloped or frilled edges, lyrate-pinnatisect, with 1–2 lobes or leaflets on each side and a larger sparsely setose, terminal lobe; upper leaves subentire, short petioled, 30–60 mm long, 2–3.5 mm wide, constricted at intervals, sessile, attenuate into a tapering, seedless, short beak 5–10 mm long. Rooting depth 90–120 cm. Seeds about 5,660–6,000 per 0.01 kg (1/3 oz).


Reported from the African and Eurosiberian Centers of Diversity, Indian Mustard, or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate drought, high pH, insects, low pH, salt, smog, and weeds. According to IBPGR's Genetic Resources of Cruciferous Crops, the oilseed is more properly called Indian Mustard, the leaf mustard, Chinese Mustard. Several types are recognized: bulbifolia, crispifolia, foliosa, integrifolia, napiformis, and rugosa. China is considered the original region of varietal differentiation, with the highest level of differentiation around Sichuan. Two forms are grown in the United States: a brown-seeded variety (B. besseriana) and a yellow-seeded variety known as Oriental or McCormic mustard. Another form is Ethiopian rapeseed or Abyssinian mustard (B. carinata), cultivated in small lots in Ethiopia and Eritrea, grown throughout the highlands in small fields near villages, mainly for its tender green leaves and sprouts, which are boiled and eaten, and from which they extract 35–38% oil from the seeds, exporting up to 8,000 tons of the fixed oil. Palai rape (B. rugosa), Asl-rai or Sarepta mustard (B. besseriana) are other well-known cultivars. In India, some varieties include: Laha, Lahi, Lahta, Desi Rai, R.T. 11, Raya 2.8. Chief varieties grown for greens are: 'Florida Broad Leaf', with large thick broad oval leaves, toothed margin, about 50 days; 'Large Smooth Leaf', with large broad oval, dark green leaves, toothed margin, about 50 days; 'Southern Giant Curled', with large wide bright green and yellow winged leaves, very curly on edges, 40 days; 'Fordhook Fancy', with large dark green deeply curled, fringed, recurved leaves, slow to bolt, about 40 days; 'Tendergreen', with large rosettes of mild-flavored, dark green, smooth, unlobed leaves, about 45 days. 'White London' is one of the best known varieties. 'Ostrich Plume', 'Giant Ostrich Plume', and 'Giant Curled' are varieties of B. japonica with large curled leaves and grown to some extent in southern United States. 'Trowse' is grown in England. Four recognized taxonomic varieties, based upon cutting of the leaves, are: crispifolia, foliosa, longidens, and multisecta. (2n = 36)


Primary center of origin thought to be central Asia (northwest India), with secondary centers in central and western China, eastern India, Burma, and through Iran to Near East. Has been cultivated for centuries in many parts of Eurasia. The principle growing countries are Bangladesh, Central Africa, China, India, Japan, Nepal, and Pakistan, as well as southern Russia north of the Caspian Sea. Considered a principle weed in Canada, a common weed in Argentina and Australia, and a weed in Fiji, Mexico, and the United States, Indian Mustard is widely distributed as a cultivar and escape in subtropical and temperate climates.


Ranging from Boreal Wet to Tropical Thorn through Tropical Wet Forest Life Zones, Indian Mustard is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 500 to 4,200 mm, annual temperature of 6 to 27°C, and pH of 4.3 to 8.3. Mustard greens is a hardy, cool-season vegetable, growing well at monthly average temperatures of 15 to 18°C. Rai is grown mostly as a rainfed crop but grows well in some dry parts of northern and central Africa, northern India, and the interior of China. It is moderately tolerant of soil acidity, prefering a pH from 5.5 to 6.8. Thrives in areas with hot days and cool nights and is fairly drought resistant.


Seeds sown in very early spring for spring use and in the fall for winter use. Successive plantings 10–14 days apart insure an all season crop. Sown in drills 30–45 cm apart; plants thinned to about 15 cm as they become crowded in the row. Control of weeds is essential, and 1 to 3 intercultivations may be necessary. When grown for seed, offtype plants should be rogued before flowering. In India, for pure culture, seeding is at a rate of 4–6 kg/ha; when cultivated with peas or barley, about 3 kg/ha. This mustard requires a good sandy loamy soil, with about 50–75 kg N, 100–150 kg acid phosphate, and 50–75 kg potash per hectare. Manure or soil improving crops may also be used. Nitrogen increases seed yield. This crop should not follow other Brassica crops in rotation. For disease control, it is best grown once every 3–4 years.


Growing period is from 40–60 days, depending on variety and weather conditions. Plants generally harvested before fruits are fully ripe to reduce shattering, harvesting usually in early morning. Entire plants are either pulled out by hand or cut a few cm above ground with sickles. Plants are tied into small sheaves and dried in the sun for 4–10 days. In India and other places where the seed is the main product, harvesting, threshing, and winnowing are carried out by the family. Extraction of oil from the seed is by rotary mill, expeller, and hydraulic processes. For Mustard greens, plants are cut off at ground level when they are young and tender. Leaves 15–30 cm long are preferred for marketing. Greens are cooled to near 0°C immediately after cutting and kept at or near that temperature during transportation and marketing. Humidity is kept at 90–95% by use of ice over the load or in the packages. Mustard greens are uually shipped in bushel baskets or wire-banded crates. Often retailed in plastic film packages of various amounts (usually 300–600 g) or in bulk and sold by the pound or peck.

Yields and Economics

As much as 12 MT leaf is reported per hectare. In India, seed yields of rai range from 900 to 1,235 kg/ha; in the United States about 1,100 kg/ha, in dry seasons this increases up to 60%. Mustard greens yields average about 12 tons/ha. In the United States, mustard greens are grown mostly in California and the Pacific Northwest, about 100–250 tons per year, with about 50,000 tons being grown in the United States yearly. Mustard greens are on market all year round. Greens are also grown in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, Arizona, and the states from Texas to Florida, north to Arkansas and Tennessee. Annual imports in the United States tons per year. In United States, Canada, and western Europe, most of the crops are grown for mustard greens, a large number of horticultural varieties or strains being grown, mostly of Japanese or Chinese stock. Montana is the largest mustard seed producing state, the oil being expressed as a preliminary step in making food products and has been used as a special lubricant in place of rapeseed oil. Alberta is the principal mustard growing region in Canada, up to 41,000 ha. Most of the crop in Canada is exported to Europe, some being used locally for expressing the oil and for condiment manufacture.


In one Indian study, the highest seed yield was 1.13 MT/ha from crops sown October 15, with 200,000 plants/hectare. Seeds sown on November 4 yielded only 0.49 MT/ha (Patel et al, 1980). In another study (Maity et al, 1980) comparing irrigating and nitrogen levels, seed yields were 0.82–2.37 MT/ha, the maximum being irrigated and fertilized with 150 N/ha. Other Indian studies suggest 1,000–2,000 kg seed per hectare, with an oil content of 30–38%. In head on comparative trials in Davis, California, Knowles et al, (1981) reported seed yields of 1,737–2,549 kg/ha for B. juncea, 980–2,003 for B. campestris, 2,063–2,852 for B. carinata, and 1,202–2,083 for B. napus. Pryde and Doty (1981) suggest average oil yields of 409 kg/ha from a seed yield of 1,166 as an overall Canadian rapeseed yield.

Biotic Factors

All varieties of B. campestris, B. napus, and B. juncea, as well as the species themselves, intercross freely, so all must be sufficiently isolated for seed production. B. juncea is two-thirds self-pollinating and one-third insect pollinating. B. juncea is less susceptible to insect pests and disease than other Indian Brassicas but is susceptible to some. Fungi known to attack rai or leaf mustard are: Albugo candida, Albugo macrospora, Alternaria brassicae, Alternaria saccardoi, Ascochyta brassicae-junceae, Cercospora brassicicola, Cercosporella albomaculans, Cercosporella brassicae, Cladosporium brassicicola, Collectotrichum higginsianum, Cystopus candidus, Erysiphe polygoni, Ischnochaeta polygoni, Macrophomina phaseoli, Mycosphaerella brassicicola, Ophiolobus braminis, Ovularia indica, Peronospora parasitica, Plasmodiophora brassicae, Puccinia aristidae, Pythium debaryanum, Rhizoctonia solani, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Sclerotium rolfsii. Bacteria include: Erwinia carotovora and Xanthomonas campestris. Most prevalent virus diseases are: Rape mosaic, Brassica virus 2, Turnip yellow mosaic, Yellow virus, Cabbage black ringspot, Kukitachina mosaic, Cucumber mosaic, Radish mosaic. Following nematodes have been isolated from rai or mustard greens: Heterodera cruciferae, Heterodera schachtii, Heterodera trifolii, Meloidogyne hapla, Meloidogyne incognita, and var. acrita, and Trichodorus christiei.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Tuesday, December 30, 1997