Anyone take a look at their grocery budget lately? Have you compared it to last year or the year before?
Skyrocketing food prices due to inflation and other (usually political) factors are one of the many reasons I enjoy obsessively reading everything I can about growing and foraging for our own edibles. In addition to learning more about traditional (and not so traditional) gardening, I’m having fun researching all the stuff growing wild in and around our woods.
About a year ago, the Wife thought it was pretty funny when I was giddy as a schoolgirl to find a weed growing off the back deck of our previous claustrophobic suburban house. I THOUGHT it was safe to eat. Guess I was right.
It turned out to be Lamb’s Quarters and is one of the most delicious and nutritious “weeds” around. If you have it, stop mowing it and count yourself lucky. I brought seeds to our new house.
Yep. I moved Weed Seeds. That’s normal… right?
Today I’m here to talk about a different, but still tasty, animal.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Unless you’re in a desert wasteland, chances are you have Garlic Mustard nearby. It’s an invasive plant that is aggressively destructive and steadily marching across North America. When you see it… Pull it! Root and all. Garlic Mustard can take over a forested area in a very short time due to the massive amount of seeds it produces, a vast majority of animals (including deer) don’t eat it, and it’s allelopathic in nature.
What’s allelopathic? Say that word five times fast.
Allelopathy is a process where a plant’s root structure gives off a compound that kills beneficial fungi in healthy soil. Fungi, one of the most crucial being mycorrhizal, that individual plants, and more importantly, entire ecosystems need.
So it eliminates competition, spreads quickly, and chokes everything else out.
You and your local parks don’t want this.
Not my picture. Thankfully not my woods. Source: GarlicMustardChallenge.
How do you identify it?
Garlic Mustard is a biennial, meaning it grows for two years. The first year it’s a very low ground cover with wrinkly, heart shaped leaves having big rounded teeth on the edge. There are a few plants that look similar, but nothing exact.
The guaranteed way to know for sure is to tear and crush a leaf. If you smell garlic, you have Garlic Mustard.
That’s year one.
In year two, it grows much taller, possibly reaching 3-4 feet.
The leaves are more triangular and have slightly sharper teeth. At the top you’ll find tiny white flowers with four petals in the shape of a cross.
No other plant in North America has this leaf structure, this flower, and smells like garlic when crumpled, so if you’re like me and choose to eat it, have no fear of death nor Jeffrey Lebowski Saddam Hussein bowling alley psychedelic trips.
Luckily we don’t have a ton of Garlic Mustard, but there are small patches here and there throughout our woods. Some neighbors have quite a bit more.
So try as I might, I doubt I’ll ever be able to completely eradicate it. The seeds travel too easily with wildlife, and that’s OK by me. While most of it gets pulled and thrown into the burn pile, I’m fine having a little around since it’s mighty tasty. And free!
As you might imagine, it has a mild garlic flavor. I have big plans to play around using it as a substitute in garlic mashed potatoes and other simple things I can successfully cook – since I’m no creative culinary genius like Joanna.
For now, I can report it’s quite good in salads. Target the younger, smaller leaves since the larger, older ones can be a little bitter… unless that’s what you’re going for in your recipe.
It pairs very nicely with a PBR (what doesn’t!?) and the now famous Larry Dinolfo Tribute Garlic Salad Dressing that blew up Joanna’s Google Analytics charts a couple weeks ago.
What better way to make it an example to its unwanted weedy friends?
Question of the Day: Who wants Joanna to work Garlic Mustard into one of her weird Foodie PenPal Chopped Challenges?
P.S. Disclaimer: You should do your own research before foraging yourself. Don’t solely trust a guy who’s day job is behind a computer who just enjoys reading books on this stuff while tweeting immature breast jokes.
MidwesternBite.com, The Husband, nor his millions of loyal blog fans are not liable if you accidentally eat poison ivy or magic mushrooms.