In ancient Roman, Greek and Chinese kitchens mustard seeds were mashed to a paste with wine in a crock. Because the condiment kept well and hid the taste of pre-refrigeration rancid meats, mustard spread around the globe.

Colonial American cooks found the mustard pot a must because the condiment added interest to the rather tedious daily diet of preserved meats. Today it's the second best selling spice in the world (pepper is first).

Even in remote areas of the Bolivian Andes, people carry spice pouches (called ajo) filled with mustard seed and dried hot peppers around their waists as they travel the mountains. The contents are added to a pot filled with potatoes and mountain water to make a tasty stew.

It's a long way from mountain to microwave, but many cooks use the latter to make mustards at home. By making your own mustards you can control the fat and salt contents and eliminate preservatives. Plus, using the microwave reduces the lumps that typically occur when mustard is made on the stove top.

As for taste, homemade mustards are the perfect condiment for this season's foods like grilled chicken, poached fish and vinaigrettes for summer salads. It's one thing to slap a chicken on the grill. But add a freshly made herbed mustard and that chicken becomes a Roman holiday.

The following recipes were created in a 700-watt microwave. If yours has less wattage, increase the timing slightly. For example, if your microwave has 600 watts, the mustards will take about 45 seconds to bubble.

FRESH HERB MUSTARD (Makes 1/3 cup)

1/4 cup ground mustard (.85 ounces)

1/4 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth

1/4 cup packed fresh herbs (thyme and rosemary are nice)

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the mustard and wine in a 1-cup measure and stir well to combine. Microwave uncovered on full power until just bubbly, about 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, grind the herbs in a mortar or electric spice grinder. When the mustard is ready, stir them in, along with the honey and oil. Cover and refrigerate to let the flavors meld. Enjoy with cheeses, grilled chicken or in a vinaigrette. Store covered and refrigerated for up to a month.

Per teaspoon serving: 27 calories, .4 gm protein, 3 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, .1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 mg sodium.

HOT PEPPER MUSTARD (Makes scant 1/3 cup)

1/4 cup ground mustard (.85 ounces)

1/4 cup beer

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste

1 tablespoon chili oil

2 tablespoons honey

Combine the mustard and beer in a 1-cup measure and stir well to combine. Microwave uncovered on full power until just bubbly, about 30 seconds.

When the mustard is ready, stir in the hot pepper sauce, oil and honey. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight, allowing the flavors to blend. Brush on chicken before grilling, swirl into gazpacho or other chilled soups, mix half and half with plain yogurt as a dipping sauce for chilled shrimp. Store covered and refrigerated for up to a month.

Per teaspoon serving: 18 calories, .4 gm protein, 3 gm carbohydrates, .4 gm fat, 0 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 17 mg sodium.

TOASTED SESAME MUSTARD (Makes scant 1/3 cup)

1/4 cup ground mustard (.85 ounces)

1/4 cup sake or dry white wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce (reduced-sodium is ok)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons honey

Combine the mustard and sake in a 1-cup measure and stir well to combine. Microwave uncovered on full power until just bubbly, about 30 seconds.

When the mustard is ready, stir in the soy sauce, sesame oil and honey. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight, allowing the flavors to blend. Great in a vinaigrette for skinny Chinese noodles or as a condiment for egg rolls, samosas, pakoras and other finger foods. Store covered and refrigerated for up to a month.

Per teaspoon serving: 26 calories, .5 gm protein, 3 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, .1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 67 mg sodium.

Judith Benn Hurley is a Pennsylvania cookbook author; her latest book is "The Healthy Gourmet."