A Tutorial on Garlic Mustard
written by me: Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac and herbalist of The Birch Center for Health
Garlic mustard (Alliaria officinalis or Alliaria petiolata) is one of the first wild edibles...and it's already up in Western Pa! It grows along shaded roadsides, woody paths, and other shady areas. It is actually an invasive weed and is easy to find in most places (more on that later.) Garlic Mustard is a biennial plant in the mustard family (Brassicareae.)
Garlic Mustard leaves first appear as heart-shaped coarsely-toothed and veined leaves close to the ground. They taste and smell (when crushed) strongly of garlic. Soon the second year plants will send up their flower stalk; the leaves will alternate along the flower stalk and become thinner, and white four-petaled flowers will appear at the top.
According to field guides, there are no poisonous look alikes and all parts of this plant are edible.
The leaves become bitter as the weather gets hot, so they are best collected in early spring and summer. They can be collected either from the ground rosettes or from the stalk.
Flowers and chopped leaves can be added to salads for a nice pungeant garlic flavor.
The roots can be collected in early spring and again in late fall, when no flower stalks are present. These are very spicy and taste like horseradish. The root can be chopped and steeped in apple cider vinegar for a spicy condiment.
In the fall the seeds, which have a mustard flavor, can be collected and eaten.
Garlic Mustard was brought to North America in the 1860's as a culinary herb and has become quite invasive, threatening both native plants and animals. Certain butterflies mistake the flowers of garlic mustard for Toothwort flowers, and lay their eggs on the garlic mustard, which is toxic to their larvae. The National Park Service recommends various management techniques such as hand removal to toxic herbicides to fire control. So when you see garlic mustard, now you have another excuse to sample and use this delicious wild edible plant.
Raw Garlic Mustard Pesto
1 1/2 cups garlic mustard leaves
1 1/2 cups spinach leaves
juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon (to taste)
1 clove garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
salt or tamari to taste
Blend above ingredients in food processor or blender and enjoy over pasta, zucchini noodles, on a cracker or on zucchini or sweet potato rounds.
Caution: If you are unsure of a wild plant, please do not eat! Many wild plants are poisonous!
Please join us for our first Wild Edible Walk of the Year!
Place: Frick Nature Center - Earth Day Celebration
Day: Saturday, April 18, 2009
Time: 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Price: Free! (The city's picking up the tab for this one!)
For more information visit Frick's website, or visit our events page.
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