Saturday, May 3, 2008

Recipe Box: Garlic Mustard

Most of the midwest, northwest and east coast states are now dealing with a severely invasive non-native plant that takes over any disturbed soil in partial sun or shaded areas such as woodlands, roadsides and vacant lots. Garlic mustard was introduced by european settlers and has spread wild as a weed anywhere it can establish itself, including my backyard in Michigan.

Garlic Mustard may be a weed, but it's also medicinal (which is why settlers brought it in the first place). The leaves are antiseptic and can be used on humans to treat everything from cuts and scrapes to acne and itchy bug bites. The root can be cooked in oil and applied to the chest for lung complaints like bronchitis.
The leaves are edible, with a flavor somewhere between garlic and onion. The young leaves are less bitter and can be added in small quanities to salads. The older/larger leaves make a great herb in soups, marinades and dry rubs, especially for game (venison, game birds, etc) but also beef and chicken.
I love that spring offers new ways to experiment with ingredients you can't get at the store! It's important, however, to gather from areas free of pesticides or other pollutants, and preferably at least 1/4 mile from the side of roads. Make sure there's no poison ivy growing amongst the garlic mustard plants. Wash the plant thoroughly before using or drying. Also make very sure that you have the correct plant, since there are a few that look similar.
The most common recipes you'll find for Garlic Mustard are pestos, as the bitterness of the leaf goes very well in the flavors of a good pesto sauce. There's plenty of recipes at:

which is the annual Garlic Mustard challenge held in Maryland. A google search also comes up with some fantastic recipes to use this invasive weed in various recipes.

I've got several bunches hanging to dry, and hopefully will have a nice stock for the rest of the year :-) I have a feeling it'll work very well in a wild rice pilaf!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting! We cleared garlic mustard a couple of years ago during the Rouge Rescue, but I didn't know you could eat it. It did smell kind of good, and certainly few people would mind me taking some off their hands, so maybe I'll have to try your suggestions! Thanks!