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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)

MustardGarlic

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.

garlic_mustard_takeover

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.

YoungMustardGarlic

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.

MustardGarlic

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.

MustardGarlicYoung

 

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.

DSC_0180 RW

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.

So go.

Pull it.

Eat it.

DSC_0177 RW

What better way to make it an example to its unwanted weedy friends?

–Mike

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.

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16 Comments

  1. Father-in-law

    Very interesting! You’re becoming quite a horticulturist. Of course, I’ll now examine what you serve us at your house a little more carefully now.

  2. Guess what I found in my herb patch last night? Thanks for the tip….and since I’m still alive this morning, I guess you really weren’t trying to kill me. 😉
    Lisa recently posted…Seasonal Inspiration: Sautéed Jerusalem ArtichokesMy Profile

  3. Very cool! (Except for the invasive part.) I think it would be interesting for spring/summer months to have Joanna gather something from the garden to use in with her box. It would make her cool with the other bloggers for being seasonal. 😀
    Aly recently posted…Something Old, Something NewMy Profile

  4. What other plants look like garlic mustard? I’m trying to identify a plant that is all over my yard, and it looks like garlic mustard (hasn’t flowered yet, though), but doesn’t smell like garlic when crushed, and doesn’t taste like anything other than a salad green.
    Jenn recently posted…Don’t Trust Sally Fallon’s Nourishing TraditionsMy Profile

    • There are a few look alike possibilities. What part of the country do you live in? Not sure how “north” North Country is for your blog title. 🙂

      What you have must not be garlic mustard. Tearing and crushing it gives off a REALLY strong garlic smell.

      Research wild violet. We have a lot of that and the leaves look similar. If it pops a pretty purple flower when it gets to be about seven nches tall, that is probably your guy. Report back!

      • I know for sure it’s not garlic mustard; I found some and was able to compare them, and the garlic smell is distinct. The unidentified plant has similar leaves, but the stem is less woody than the garlic mustard. I’ll wait to see if it flowers and hopefully be able to identify it then. And I’m up in MN!
        Jenn recently posted…Don’t Trust Sally Fallon’s Nourishing TraditionsMy Profile

        • Hey Jenn, I was on my phone when responding last night, so I was too lazy to go Google up a pic of wild violet and link it for you.

          Wild Violet still has the heart-shaped leaf pattern, but it’s more “folded up” so it looks like water would funnel down towards the root. Yeah, that’s not a crazy fancy horticultural term, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Here’s a great picture that shows what I mean.

          http://www.msuturfweeds.net/details/_/wild_violet_17/

          It clumps like Garlic Mustard does in its first year, but Wild Violet never grows tall like Garlic Mustard does its second year.

          Let me know if that’s it. If not, we can go down the list to the next likely candidate.

          • Almost a year later, and I’m getting back to you about this spring’s garlic mustard!

            With your help, I was able to identify that I have both garlic mustard and wild violet in my yard. I pulled a bunch of garlic mustard up today, and put it in some jalapeno hot sauce. It’s perfect on a dreary, cool day like today. I posted it as my first entry on the new blog I’m trying to develop. I linked to this page. Hope you don’t mind! 🙂
            Jenn recently posted…Edible Weeds – Garlic MustardMy Profile

  5. Pingback: June Forage: Japanese Honeysuckle | musings of a kitchen witch

  6. A note on pulling it — garlic mustard has a distinctive twist in the stem just above ground. Grab it on or below this twist or it’ll often break there and you’ll still have the root left in the soil.

    I live in a patch of woods and a few plants here and there one year turned into thick patches the next year. I pulled it all up, every single one — one of the most pernicious aspects of it is that an established patch leaves behind seeds that will continue to lie dormant, then portions germinate, for several years. (That patch in the picture is probably well-established and even if every plant is pulled this year, will still grow up almost as thick next year.)

    This year’s project is to thin out the poison ivy and wineberries taking over the back yard…

    • Thanks for the great tip Joe. Now you need to come back sometime and let us know your prefered method for eradicating poison ivy. I still don’t know a good way besides wearing old clothes and basically burning them when I’m done. :/ I kid, but only slightly. I definitely don’t keep the gloves around.

  7. That’s really all I do. Last time I pulled a bunch, I just threw the clothes in the washer by themselves and washed them on Hot. It seemed to work, or at least I didn’t break out all over when I wore those clothes and gloves again. My leather belt I wiped down with a wet cloth and then some Tecnu (probably not the best thing for leather, but it beats weeping pustules…)