Monday, April 16, 2012
Photo Collage - Garlic Mustard
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) might be one of the first wild edibles we tried a few years ago. It is incredibly abundant her in southern New England, and highly invasive. The flavor is indeed garlicky with a hint of hot mustard, with a bit of bitterness in the leaves at different stages of growth. Garlic mustard is a biennial herbaceous plant, meaning it does not produce flowers and seeds until its second season. Beginning in late fall, and early spring, the first year's growth of kidney-shaped leaves is produced in a basal rosette from a white taproot. These leaves are a bit tough and best suited for pestos and a recipe where they are chopped and cooked for awhile. The second year is when the flower stalk is produced, and the stalk bears triangular-shaped leaves that are more tender, but also more pungent. The flower clusters look a little bit like broccoli and the tiny white flowers are edible, with a hot bite. Shortly after the flowers pass, long seed pods called siliques grow, turning from green to brown. The seeds fall in mid-summer, leaving behind the dry, brown plant stalks.
The entire plant is edible to certain degrees. The white taproot from the first year basal rosette can be dug and grated like horseradish, or chewed raw for a sinus-stimulant! The leaves can be gathered to use like other greens in normal recipes, like a roulade, ravioli filling, or greens-stuffed bread. Using the garlicky and spicy flavor of the leaves to enhance food is done by adding the greens to a more neutral recipe like hummus, or an already spicy felafel. Some find the slight bitterness unpleasant, and that can be lessened by boiling the greens in two changes of water before using the greens. We like to eat the top 4" or so of the flower stalks, stripped of the leaves and stems, and boiled like pasta. We also like to eat the immature, green seed pods with some butter and salt. The seeds can be gathered quite easily in quantity, and we use them in a spicy mustard and dressings, and sprinkled on bread.