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.


Kristina said...

I have a question. I am reading about Ground Ivy, and the leaves with their mint flavor....can the blossoms be used for anything? Jelly? Would love to know if you have used it for anything.

The 3 Foragers said...

While the flowers are edible, I don't think they are very tasty. What we call ground ivy here (Glechoma hederacea) tastes rather un-minty. It has the square stem, but smells a bit like cat pee to me. Usually it is used dried for tea or added to a smoothie where you won't taste the ground ivy at all. You might have a different mint.

Appreciative Customers said...

Like you, we have an overabundance of this garlicky mustardy tasting plant. I mstly juice my wild greens and prefer not to use this one although I heard that after a frost or freeze they taste better. However, thank you for the idea about the seeds and I will give it a tray as a mustard sauce :-)

dan said...

Hi there!
I enjoying as much food as I can from the woods, and made a great deal of pestos, etc. with garlic mustard over the winter. This spring, I sauteed the shoots with Japanese Knotweed and it was fantastic.

I was having a drink last night with an evolutionary biologist friend who studies garlic mustard and claims that it contains 4 to 5 x the amount of cyanide considered safe for human consumption.

Your thoughts??


Colleen K. Peltomaa said...

Hello, Dan, well with that new data I guess I'm not THAT hungry, besides when one can get a lot of vitamins and minerals from the everywhere growing dandelion, I don't think I will be missing out. However, the garlic mustard plant does pull up out of the ground very easily and makes a great green mulch for my budding hugulkulture.

The 3 Foragers said...

I did some poking around on Google, and most sources are saying there is cyanide present in the first year's leaves, those that grow from the basal rosette and are shaped like kidneys.

We usually eat the second year's leaves, due to a taste preference. It should also be stated that moderation is key here, but consuming reasonable amounts should be OK. It won't stop us!