Every year towards the end of winter the vineyards in the Napa Valley come alive with a brilliant carpet of mustard showing vivid yellow flowers below the bare grape trunks. Mostly growing wild, the mustard is more than just a feast for the eyes, it is a feast for the vines. Once the flowers fade the plants are turned under between the rows providing valuable nutrients and phosphorous for the emerging grape vines.
According to legend, a Franciscan missionary first spread the mustard seed while landscaping church properties throughout California. These early world gardeners carried the mustard seeds in a sack slung over their backs and each sack had a small hole, so as they walked the seeds were scattered.
Here are some details about the plants that will have everyone marveling over the science of it all:
- Mustard growth helps suppress the nematode population (microscopic worms that can damage vines) because mustard contains high levels of biofumigants.
- Some vineyards have created their own varieties that are specifically bred to have high levels of Glucosinolate compounds, or are ‘extra spicy,’ to further deter nematodes.
- Essentially, the worms don’t like the glucosinolates in the mustard, which give the plant its pungent odor and sharp taste Naturally reducing harmful nematodes with mustard spares the vineyards from dangerous chemical eradicators and pesticides.
- Naturally reducing harmful nematodes with mustard spares the vineyards from dangerous chemical eradicators and pesticides.
Mustard Season in Napa Valley lasts from January through March. A great time of year to visit the beautiful Napa Valley.