Garlic Mustard: A Wild Food Gem
Updated: Jan 15
Garlic mustard is a biennial member of the mustard family and is considered an invasive weed, but a tasty one. As its name indicates, it has a garlicky flavor. It has low growing, kidney-shaped leaves that appear in early spring. By mid-spring, a taller flower stalk shoots up and bears white flowers.
This history of this plant is interesting as it is native to Europe and Africa. It was brought to the New World in 1868 and was planted in New York. Since that time it has spread across America and is considered very invasive. This plant will overtake an area if not controlled so harvesting it helps. As with all wild foods, start out eating it slowly and do not overdo it if you are not used to eating this way.
Garlic mustard is high in vitamins A, C, and E. It is rich in many trace minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper, iron and manganese.
Parts Used: Young tender leaves, stalks and roots.
Leaves: Pick the tender young leaves in early spring and use mixed in salads, made into pesto, added to soups, sautéed, simmered or in sauces.
Flowering Shoot: Pick the shoots when the flower bud is still unopened and still in a cluster. The stalk is mild, juicy and thicker at this stage and can be eaten raw or cooked. Added to other foods, Garlic mustard makes an excellent seasoning.
Flowers: These may be picked and added to salads or used as a garnish.
Roots: In the fall, roots may be dug, cleaned and used like Horseradish.
TIPS: Blanch and freeze for off-season use. The leaves may also be dried for winter use in soups and stews.
Garlic Mustard Pesto Recipe
Garlic Mustard Pesto (Makes about 1 cup)
4 cups garlic mustard greens
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon each, fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pulse the garlic mustard greens in a food processor with the walnuts, cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the spout.
Serve on meat, fish, pasta, or bread. Add to a sandwich for a little extra kick. Anything!