Monday, July 25, 2022

Paris is out of mustard!

A mustard field in Alberta, Canada, 2021,
where most Dijon mustard seeds come from. (source)

A few days ago in the New York Times, an article highlighted a very special problem in Paris: "the mysterious disappearance of mustard from supermarket shelves has caused, if not revolt, at least deep disquiet." Dijon mustard is irreplaceable in French cuisine, giving "edge to a steak frites, life to a grilled sausage, depth to a vinaigrette and richness to mayonnaise. " (Roger Cohen, "France Faces a Shortage of Mustard, Its Uniquely Beloved Condiment.")

Leeks vinaigrette I made once: Dijon mustard is essential!
I use lots of mustard but somehow I bought two jars of
Grey Poupon at Costco, so I have plenty right now.

Artichokes vinaigrette. Mustard essential!

Writer David Leibowitz writes from Paris about "la pénurie de moutarde" -- the mustard shortage:

"At first, the shortage was attributed to the war in Ukraine, which seemed odd to me since most of the mustard seeds come from Canada. I don’t know if the mustard companies wanted the public to know that, so perhaps they were blaming the war." (source)

However, the big picture is this:

"A perfect storm of climate change, a European war, Covid supply problems and rising costs have left French producers short of the brown seeds that make their mustard, mustard." (NY Times)

Mustard seeds are obviously the key ingredient in Dijon mustard along with white wine. The mustard crop used to be grown locally near Dijon, the mustard capital, but that's no longer true. If you buy mustard labeled "Burgundy" it's grown there, otherwise, the main source is the west of Canada. For example, Maille Dijon mustard contains 60 percent Canadian mustard seeds.

The word from Alberta, Canada:

"The Canadian prairie provinces, including Alberta, produce 80% of the world’s mustard seeds. Our mustard is used all over the world to produce some of the best prepared mustard products available – from ballpark yellow mustards to France’s famous Dijon mustards. If someone is adding prepared mustard or mustard oil to a dish anywhere in the world, the chances are high that the seeds came from right here in Alberta." (source)

The drought in North America in 2021 had a severe effect on the Canadian mustard harvests, along with harvests in much of the US and Canadian West: "the country's mustard production dropped 28 percent for the 2021-22 marketing year." (source) The French mustard suppliers are searching for alternative supplies, but that's made even more difficult because Ukraine is also a producer of mustard seeds -- and you know what's happening there!

A bottle of wine from the vinyards
nearest to Dijon.
Dijon, France, has a long history as a manufacturer of prepared mustard, going back to the Middle Ages. The Dijon mustard-makers developed the recipes for the Dijon flavors of mustard using both wine and verjus, which is unfermented grape juice -- not surprising since Dijon is also in the center of the wine-growing region of Burgundy. I couldn’t decide which I’m more fond of: the wine or the mustard!

The condiment itself has been around for much longer than that:

"We can thank the Romans for so many things, including mustard. They mixed must (unfermented grape juice) with ground mustard seeds to make mustum ardens—burning must. They used it as a condiment, preserved fruit in it (mostarda) and served it with sausage." (source)

Meanwhile, the grocery stores in Paris have big empty spaces on the shelves where the shoppers and cooks usually find their favorite brands of mustard, including Edmond Fallot, Maille, Amora, and many other brands. The American mustard companies are not having the same problems, so we can easily buy Grey Poupon, which is Dijon mustard made in the USA, as well as our own yellow mustard. Maybe that's because despite our love of mustard on hot dogs, our total consumption of mustard, at 12 ounces per year per person, is far below that of France, where they use 2.2 pounds of mustard per year per person. Also, American mustard is made from yellow mustard seeds, while French mustard uses brown seeds, which are scarcer at the moment. The French do not like American yellow mustard!

Antique mustard pot.

UPDATE July 27: An article in the Washington Post provides some additional information on the shortages of mustard seed, specifically, that the supplies of locally-grown mustard in the Dijon area have been dropping drastically because of increased damage from insect pests. The number of insects is increasing as a result of warmer temperatures due to climate change. The French regulation of pesticide use makes it difficult for farmers to fight against these infestations. "France’s mustard shortage fuels drama and panic in grocery stores"

I'm sharing this with the ongoing blog event Paris in July, and with the bloggers at Elizabeth's weekly party celebrating drinks of all kinds — in this case, wine. Post © 2022 by mae sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.


R's Rue said...

This is so interesting.

Tina said...

I will be happy to share my Maille mustard with you. Seriously, say the word :-)

Divers and Sundry said...

I had no idea! We are in drought now, but I didn't realize it stretched so far north or that the mustard crop was that centered in Canada.

Hena Tayeb said...

Had no idea. There is a shortage s=of so many things nowadays. Who would have thought it would affect mustard as well.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

We bought a big jar of mustard when we were in Paris back in April, and we had some every night with our evening-at-home meal. I didn't realize how beloved mustard is in France until this visit.

Carola Bartz said...

Not only the French don't like yellow mustard, I don't either.
I wish not having enough mustard was the only problem our world faces.

Linda Kunsman said...

vive moutarde Dijon!! Happy T day wishes.

Linda Kunsman said...

vive moutarde Dijon, et vive la France! Happy T day wishes.

My name is Erika. said...

I didn't know that about mustard. What an interesting post. I like how you connected it to Paris and how it affects French cooking also. Thanks for sharing and Happy T day too. hugs-Erika

Sherry's Pickings said...

i think a lot of companies and producers are blaming covid and ukraine for who knows what? causing shortages. i know the terrible floods here in february have genuinely caused shortages as the ground became so damp (and then it rained some more!) so they haven't been able to plant. French mustard is not a condiment that appears in my kitchen at all so i am safe. I make my own grain mustard. that ghastly yellow stuff!! Bitter and nasty. uurrgghh...

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

There was a mustard shortage in 2020 so I started keeping a spare jar of both Maille Dijon and Wholegrain mustards. But I'm going to stock up on Dijon mustard as we use a lot of it. Thanks for the heads up.

Iris Flavia said...

LOL. Braunschweig is not.
Ingo bought 1000 ml mustard and for Christmas his company presented him with.... mustard.
Sorry, your title made me laugh!

Even though the subject is really not to laugh about!!!!

Yes Ukraine is held responsible for everything these days, how annoying. Russia is to blame, or rather Putin.
And the weather is cranky since a long time.
Here sunflower-oil was not available, before we all fought about toilet paper.
We blame COVID, nature, war... It´s a weird world.

Just look down the history lane.
The world was weird always.
Now media makes it easier to communicate it.

I just solved a basic PC problem with a colleague from Barcelona.
Think back, what, 20 years? I would´ve written a paper letter, snail mail...
Now, BING, he calls me via teams and despite no one knows what to do we get the problem solved.

If life was that easy in general.

Next weekend, to make a point, we´ll have mustard-eggs...

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

What a wonderful review. I had no idea of the shortage. When I was a young girl, I was given a mustard seed necklace. Or I should say a heart with a mustard seed inside. I believe it was a brown mustard seed. It would be priceless today.

I had to laugh that the French don't care for our yellow mustard. I have to agree, after having Dijon, especially Grey-Poupon.

Thanks for this amazing review and the wine the mustard requires as your drink for T this Tuesday, Mae.

Empire of the Cat said...

It is bizarre isn't it that a product so iconic as Dijon mustard is not made either in Dijon or with Dijon mustard seeds anymore. One of the culinary frustrations of life I guess. There are so many things missing from shelves here, and most of it seems to be due to transportation problems.

My friend went to Paris yesterday for a week's holiday with her daughter, I hope they are not short of mustard! Happy T Day Elle/EOTC xx

Jenn Jilks said...

Hooray, Canada! Boo to the drought. These are trying times.
I cannot imagine what it is to be in Ukraine.
(ツ) from Jenn Jilks , ON, Canada!

Lisbeth said...

Very interesting post, I had no idea that the seeds come from Canada. That just shows how globalised our world is, although we don't always know it. I do have a Dijon mustard in my fridge and it will last for some time. We have quite a few choices of Swedish mustard as well, which are very good. I suffer with the French people though.

Jeanie said...

C'est tragique! I should mention that blogger Carol Gillot, who lives in Paris and writes Paris Breakfasts, took exception with that NYT article in a post last week. Although I don't know where she shops! I used to love the small jars of mustard sold by Picard that Jerry would bring me every year, but they stopped making them.

pearshapedcrafting said...

My SIL told us about the shortage a few weeks ago. I always have a couple of pots in my cupboard. This was interesting to read, thank you, hugs,Chrisx

Lory said...

Yes, very interesting. I'd heard of the shortage but did not know all the details. Especially how much mustard the French use compared to Americans! It's not exactly a nutritional staple though, so I hope they can adapt.

Arti said...

Thanks so much for this important info. Why? I've lived in Alberta for decades and don't even know we're such a major contributor of mustard to the world! Of course I've driven by those beautiful yellow fields, thinking they are all canola (or rapeseed we call them). Vive la Alberta! :) -- Arti of Ripple Effects

Marg said...

I learnt something new today! I had no idea Canada was the biggest producer of mustard seeds!

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Your research for your posts is so educational, informative, and interesting. Who knew about the shortage of mustard in France?
I never gave any thought to where mustard seeds grow, although we are fans of mustard. I feel like I should run out and buy some extra tp keep in my pantry. Thanks Mae for an interesting post.