Edible Weed ID – Garlic Mustard

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.

So my friends might think I’m a little off eating weeds.  Oh well.

Yeah, so I’m the guy who moved a couple gallon size ziplock baggies full of Lamb’s Quarters’ seeds when we moved to the new place last year.  That’s right.  I carefully brought weed seeds with us as Lamb’s Quarters is one of the most delicious “weeds” I can think to throw in a fresh salad, or wilt up in a stir fry.  I knew I was going to miss the patch around our deck.

A close second for me, behind Lamb’s Quarters, is

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria Petiolata)

GarlicMustard-EdibleWeed

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, so it won’t just regenerate again on you. Garlic Mustard can take over a forested area in a relatively short time due to the massive amount of seeds it produces, a vast majority of animals (including deer) don’t usually 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.

2garlic_mustard_takeoverNot 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.

3YoungMustardGarlic

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.

1MustardGarlic

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.

4MustardGarlicYoung

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, like our hungry hordes of deer, 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 you may have read I suck at that activity, but am trying to improve.

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.

5Salad

It pairs very nicely with a PBR (… and what doesn’t!?).

So go.

Pull it.

Eat it.

Make it an example to its friends.

Question of the Day: Do you have a lot of Garlic Mustard or other wild edibles nearby?  Any recipes to share?

Disclaimer: Please do your own research before eating foraged food. GentlemanHomestead.com, nor our millions of loyal blog fans (Hi Wife!)  are not liable if you accidentally eat poison ivy or magic mushrooms.

Posted in Edible Weed ID
15 comments on “Edible Weed ID – Garlic Mustard
  1. Patrick says:

    Now I am hungry for a garlic mustard, lamb’s quarter, dandelion salad. I do not have garlic mustard on my property, but I do cultivate lambs quarter (I have a large ziplock full of seed as well). I am sure if I take a walk in the woods across the street I will find all the garlic mustard you could eat. We should have a wild forage dinner sometime, squirrel – garlic mustard – morrel – ramp stew!
    Patrick recently posted…Red Light DistrictMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Count me in! I still haven’t had a chance to find the sweet spot temperature-wise for morels in our woods. Neighbors say they used to be out there…

  2. Patrick says:

    I might go tromping around in the woods today after work. I haven’t been out looking this year, maybe take the puppy for a walk.
    Patrick recently posted…Red Light DistrictMy Profile

  3. Love the article!! People don’t realize how much great wild food there is available. I started a local class last year on wild edibles at the library and was overwhelmed by how many people wanted to know about wild foraging.
    Travis Maddox recently posted…My Top 10 Book List on Self SufficiencyMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Good for you on starting a local class! It’s great to see community initiative like that. May I ask how it’s turning out? I will be presenting free seminars on Intro to Permaculture and Keeping Backyard Chickens for our local parks dept. They said they already have a lot of pre-registered folks so hopefully they’ll find it helpful.

  4. Andrea says:

    I’ve never eaten it, but we’ve gone to a nature reserve in our city several times to volunteer pulling it. Each time we spent hours filling up bags. Smelled good, lol. It’s crazy how invasive this stuff is.

    • Mike says:

      You should give it a try sometime. Quite tasty. 🙂 There are local outings at our parks also to remove garlic mustard and honeysuckle. Both can just take over!

  5. Lisa says:

    Wow! Who knew garlic mustard made good salad greens?! I have tons of it. Foraging is definitely more appealing than weeding. I’m visiting from the HomeAcre Hop. It’s my first time hopping…
    Lisa recently posted…Ready, Set, Plant! Happy Earth Day!My Profile

  6. Garlic mustard is truly taking over! Sad. I’ve made garlic mustard pesto many times (make it just like pesto, sub the basil, and you don’t have to add additional garlic. Seriously, someone needs to market that because that might be the only way to rid our woods of garlic mustard.
    Connie at Bird and Seed recently posted…DIY Food WrapMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for stopping by. Since you’re the second person to mention pesto, and I never thought of that, it’s now on tomorrow night’s menu. 🙂

  7. Jenny says:

    I’ll have to keep a look out for this one. Thanks for sharing this on the HomeAcre Hop.

  8. Thanks for sharing this one on Green Thumb Thursday – I pinned it to our hop board. Love it!
    tessa Homestead Lady recently posted…Green Thumb Thursday 4/30/14My Profile

  9. Kate says:

    I have never seen Garlic Mustard before. Have not even heard about it. Will definitely pull it if I see it in my garden. Thanks for the post!
    Kate recently posted…Quick update at MrVapoMy Profile

    • Mike says:

      Interesting… May I ask generally where you’re located? It’s so prolific in most places. Especially east of the Mississippi.

  10. JAYNE says:

    Does garlic mustard grow in zone 4?I’ve never seen it either.

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