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