Mustard. This small, humble seed is used in cuisines the world over, from the sharp spicy mustard served with dim sum to the rich, seedy variety applied to sandwiches. It's got pep and zest, comes in electric yellow and stoneground brown, and you might be surprised to learn that it's good for a whole lot more than sticking in your mouth.
Below, eight remarkable ways to use this incredibly flexible ingredient.
1. Mustard gargle
Mustard soothes sore throats and inflammation, and you can make a great gargle with a half cup of hot water and a tablespoon each of mustard, salt, lemon juice and honey. It might not taste fantastic, but it will help your throat feel better. Those anti-inflammatory effects are also useful for sore muscles (make a mustard plaster applied directly to the site) and fresh burns (after rinsing with cool water, smear mustard on the site to slow swelling and blistering).
Mustard powder has some powerful cleaning chops. Sprinkle it on a greasy or dirty pan and use a damp sponge to make a paste you can use to lift the grease and grime. The mustard absorbs grease, while the powder acts as a scrubber to lift up crusted material on the surface of the pan.
It might sound odd, because mustard can have a strong smell, but it actually works very well as a deodorizer. If you have a container that's acquired a smell from whatever was in it before, rinse the container with mustard powder and hot water. Let it sit for half an hour or so before rinsing thoroughly, and the smell should have neutralized. This trick also works for deskunking you, your pets or your car.
4. Exfoliating face mask
Mild mustard can make a great facial mask; it will unclog pores, firm the skin, and leave the face feeling smooth. Before applying it, test a small amount on the inside of your elbow and wait a few minutes to see if you experience a skin reaction, as you may be sensitive to mustard. If nothing happens, you have the go ahead to massage it right into your face.
5. Natural weed control
Mustards tend to suppress the plants that grow around them, thanks to certain compounds they emit. That makes them choice for planting around sensitive crops to protect them from weeds. Before coplanting mustard for natural weed control in your landscaping, doublecheck that your own plants won't take exception to their new guest.
6. Soothing muscle aches and pains
As discussed above, mustard is great for inflammation, and if you want to go whole hog, you can make a mustard bath. Add mustard powder (and possibly some essential oil) to a hot bath and lower yourself in for a relaxing experience. When you're finished, you can rinse off the mustard scent so no one mistakes you for a sandwich and takes a bite.
7. Deer repellant
It's hard to keep deer out of the garden, even if you have a solid deer fence, but here's a trick that can help: set out some dishes of mustard. No, it's not because deer are condiment purists. They just don't like the smell, and they'll tend to steer away from areas that smell strongly (to them) of mustard.
Yes, really! Mix mustard powder with olive oil and massage it into your hair, taking care to work it all the way to the ends. Then, wrap your hair up and cover it for a few hours or overnight, giving the mustard and oil combination plenty of time to work into the hair and repair damage. Wash well and rinse when you're done, and then style as normal. You should have sleeker, shinier, happier hair as a result.
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