Garlic Mustard

Two New Friends: Garlic Mustard + Nettle

Apologies for the sporadic nature of my posts lately, but it finally feels like spring, so I’ve been spending as much time as possible exploring our new yard—planting onions, getting our compost pile started, and especially acquainting myself with the wild edibles. I was able to dip my toe into foraging last summer with plantain, serviceberries, mulberries, and elderberries, but because I didn’t move to the area until June, I’m learning that I missed out on some of the best spring foraging: garlic mustard and nettles.

garlic mustard

image via mhiller, flickr

Garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata) is a seriously invasive biennial in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. Now that I know what I’m looking for, I see garlic mustard everywhere, and we’ve been eating it for weeks in salads, chopped up on pizza, and sautéed and scrambled into eggs. Despite that, I’ve barely made a dent in the garlic mustard patch in my yard, and I noticed it was flowering this week so, in order to prevent my yard from turning into a giant garlic mustard patch, I pulled up as much as I could to cook with this week.

Last week I also went on an edible/medicinal plant identification hike with the local herb guild. While we were mostly identifying, we were able to take stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)—another plant I’ve probably walked past hundreds of times and never noticed.

stinging nettle

This ladybug didn’t seem to mind the sting. Notice the violets, another new favorite wild edible, in the background.

If you’ve ever unwittingly grabbed or even brushed up against one with bare skin, you know why they’re called stinging nettles. Yet the stinging compounds (according to Wikipedia: acetylcholine, histamine, 5-HT [serotonin], moroidin, leukotrienes, and possibly formic acid) are neutralized when nettles are cooked or dried.

I was starving when we got back from our hike, so I immediately cooked some nettles in bacon fat and then scrambled them with some eggs. Maybe it’s because it was after 2 and I hadn’t eaten that day, but they were so, so good.

I then bundled several bouquets and hung them from the kitchen ceiling to dry (the above picture is what was left over), and then stripped most of the remaining leaves from the stems and boiled them in a big pot with water. I used the cooked nettles along with some garlic mustard to make a wonderful pesto that I’ve been eating on pizza and with eggs and chicken all week. I plan on sharing that recipe soon! I also saved the cooking liquid, storing it in a growler in the fridge to heat up for tea (like this wonderful nettle chai) throughout the week.

Have you found anything good while foraging lately? What are your favorite spring finds?

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: forage respectfully and responsibly, and don’t eat anything you haven’t 100% identified.

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Dry Skin Brushing

I love the idea that small changes to your daily routine can have a big impact on general health and happiness, and dry brushing definitely falls in that category. It’s something that doesn’t take much time or require a big monetary investment, yet—at least according to some sources—can go a long way toward promoting overall wellness.

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Disconnected (Why We Chose Not to Have the Internet, For Now)

It’s not that we can’t get internet at our new place, or that it’s too expensive (though I’m not mad about paying one less bill every month). Still, after weighing the pros and cons, we decided to hold off on setting up a home internet connection, at least for now. Despite the inconvenience, after three weeks without internet I am glad to not have it. Here’s why:

Separating “Work” from Not-Work

As someone who “works from home,” this might seem like a deal-breaker. But I’ve found that working from home makes it really easy to develop bad habits—working in bed, working while eating lunch, working while marathoning Gilmore Girls. While a lot of people probably consider these benefits of freelancing, they are really inefficient and make it almost impossible to actually get anything done. When my attention is divided, tasks that should take a few hours can easily expand to fill an entire day, and then it’s time to go to bed. This makes me feel like I am living to work—a feeling I hate, and the reason I do not want a 9-5 job to being with. For my mental wellbeing, I really need a separation between work and not-work, and having to actually leave the house to get work done is an excellent way to facilitate that separation.

Promoting Productivity

Relatedly: when it comes to work I’m kind of a marathoner, and this has always been the case. In graduate school, if at all possible, I would schedule all my tutoring, teaching, coursework, and office hours for two or three days, and then leave the rest of my week open for non-work things. It’s not so much that I love working for eight hour stretches—what I do love is having entire days to do whatever the hell I want, whether it’s tool around in the garden, meet someone for coffee, read a book, work on my own writing, make kombucha or sauerkraut, etc.

more conscious consumption of television

Cable was free in our last apartment, but aside from that it’s been years since I subscribed to cable television, mostly because I’m really cheap but also because it’s too easy to  binge-watch hours of HGTV and because, more often than not, there’s really nothing on worth watching. Still, Netflix makes it way too easy to lose a few hours that would be better spent doing something else (thanks, autoplay). So, now we are renting movies and series from the library, which is free and also just inconvenient enough to curb binge-watching.

I’m sure I’ll think of more benefits as I continue to adjust, but for now I am happy enough with these. Now please excuse me while I  walk to the library to do my taxes. I plan to sit in the back corner so no one can see me weeping.

On a totally unrelated note

As I was turning this post over in my head while walking to the library today, it occurred to me that I could “clickbait-ify” the title into something like “5 Reasons I Said Goodbye to Home Internet” or “You Won’t Believe What When This Couple Said Goodbye to Home Internet!” And then I threw up in my mouth a little bit. Is anyone else really, really sick of clickbait titles?

Friday Faves: Bedtime Rituals to Promote Restful Sleep

Lately I’ve been struggling to fall and stay asleep. It started when I was sick—I had a hard time breathing and would wake up coughing several times in the night. After my cold cleared up, we discovered black mold in our apartment, went through the process of appealing our lease, and then the equally stressful process of finding a place to live in a college town in the middle of the semester—none of which is conducive to quality sleep.

Of course I try to follow sleep hygiene best practices like limiting caffeine after noon and exercising earlier in the day, but here are a few more strategies I find helpful when I’m having a hard time falling asleep.

sleep tight

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Uprooted, Again

It’s been a little quiet around here for the past couple weeks, but I promise I have a good reason. Though our lease didn’t actually end until August, I am writing this from sun-filled living room (four windows, that’s double what our entire apartment had) of our new house.1

First, a little back story: last May, out of what can only be described as post-wedding burnout, we decided to go with the “safe” choice of student housing rather than drive the eight hours from Tennessee to Illinois to look for an apartment. Although the move to Illinois was the most recent in a series of five or six over the previous few years, and we were really ready to be done with moving for a while, we were so, so tired, and we figured that a year in student housing would give us plenty of time to get to know the area and find a more long-term solution—and honestly, how bad could student housing really be? We’d recently stayed in our friend Hannah’s student apartment, and it was cozy and charming.2

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Is Conscious Consumption an Oxymoron?

Because all of my work happens on the computer, it’s so easy to mindlessly switch from “work mode” to “free time” mode without ever getting off the sofa or closing my laptop. I simply navigating from Google Docs to Pinterest or Facebook, and before I know it a few hours of my actual life are gone. Forever. I hate this. It’s both troubling in the abstract and also detrimental in more concrete, mental and  physical ways. Because of all this, one intention I set for myself this year was to read more.1 But anyway, the reading, in and of itself, is not what this post is about.

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