Medicinal Herbal Recipes

Garlic mustard: an environmental threat or a healthy treat?

Very few weeds in the world have withdrawn so much attention like Garlic Mustard, alias Alliaria Petiolata. Although it can by all means be considered a “super food”, in other continents, like North America, it has become a real environmental threat to native species. Here in Denmark, it is very easy to find in backyards, forests, by the roads..everywhere basically. However, despite that, the majority of people do not know that this common plant from the Mustard Family can be considered as one of the best food available, and it is free! Join me this Friday too, and come meet Garlic Mustard! For recipes, just scroll down…

Knowing Garlic Mustard:

This mostly biennials plant is very easy to identify. Even though the shape of the leaves changes with time, its somehow gentle smell of garlic will leave no doubts to the harvester.

Different shapes of Garlic Mustard leaves from @wildpinehealing

It has three principal flavors when eaten: Bitter, Garlic and Pepper.

Different patches of garlic mustard may have different size leaves, suggesting that different micro-climates promote different types of germination. In general, as winter ends and spring begins, garlic mustard will reappear with its classic heart-shaped leaves that, short after, are going to give room to a fast growing stalk. White flowers at the tip of the stem are going to blossom in the end of April, start of May.

Garlic Mustard plant flowering in my backyard

Why Garlic Mustard is good for you: this plant is one of the most nutritious leafy green ever analysed.[1] In fact, there are no greens higher in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc.

Just to make an example, Garlic Mustard beats spinach, broccoli leaves, kale and other mustard for all these nutrients.

Moreover, it is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and manganese. It is also packed with good phytochemicals like isothiocyanates and glucosinolates like other plants from the mustard family, and who knows how many other compounds yet to be discovered.

Why Garlic Mustard can become an environmental threat and related “fun facts”:

The plant is native here in Europe. Plants and animals here have developed with time methods to cope with invasive plant like Garlic Mustard. However, this plant can still be a problem in same cases, like for example if you wish to grow some hybrid or for american native plants.

In North America, for example, garlic Mustard is a real threat, since this plant is winning over their native plants.

But why and how?

Well, Garlic Mustard likes to play dirty. In fact, the second year plant is able to synthesize an anti-fungal compound that kills the underground fungi Mycorrhiza, which is beneficial for the germination of many other plants, included american native ones.

Garlic Mustard alert in USA. From @clarkowa_pw

In many cases USA states have promoted the unlimited harvest of this plant and in some cases, like Maryland, this harvesting has been taken to a new level, by arranging Garlic Mustard-cooking contests and festivals in those area where the plant spread the most.

@66squarefeet is one of the most active US Instagram channels, where it is promoted the culinary use of Garlic Mustard.

Uses in Traditional Herbalism:

The leaves and stems, harvested before the plant flowers, are anti-asthmatic. The phytochemicals present in the plant, that are able to protect it from enemies make Garlic Mustard an effective antiseptic and vermifuge.

The big amount of minerals makes it also an antiscorbutic.

Alliaria Petiolata from Foraging and Feasting book of Dina Falconi

It is in general a hot and dry plant which means that it is useful in cases of infection, like respiratory ones, and fever, because it promotes sweat (diaphoretic).

Externally, the leaves have been used as a poultice on ulcers for its antiseptic properties, and are effective in relieving the itching caused by bites and stings.

Even the roots can be dried and reduced to poultice on the chest in case of respiratory infections. These techniques maybe sound a bit old school and too messy for the modern patient that aims for an easy and neat remedy for any circumstance, but I assure that these old school methods are far too often much more effective in relieving chest pain and congestion in case of respiratory infection or asthma than more orthodox remedies. Try and see..

Culinary uses: As mentioned, Garlic Mustard taste is bitter, but also garlic-like and pepper-like. As many other bitter plants, the oldest the plant, the more bitter the leaves. However, the leaves taken after the plant has flowered are not as bitter because they loose some of the compounds that make it medicinal (and also bitter).

So if you are not too much into bitters, wait for the plant to flower and enjoy the blaze of minerals and vitamins present in this wonderful green.

Plants with flowers are less bitter and more suitable the palate of the most.

But what can I use Garlic Mustard for?

Well.. it is a great addition to any..I mean ANY salad (up to 1/4 of the components otherwise it becomes too bitter), and it is an amazing addition for marinade, sandwiches or sauces/dip for both fish and meat dishes.

One of the most popular way to eat it is to make pesto, but I personally add Garlic Mustard to pretty much anything these days, from breakfast scrambled eggs to zucchini-potatoes Rösti… really: sky is the limit!

Homemade Garlic Mustard pesto

It gives that missing touch to basically any dish.

The seeds can be eaten to increase appetite and improve digestion and are a pretty addition to anything you would like to have that spicy note.

But here today, I would like to share with you some of my favorite recipes with Garlic Mustard.

One is super easy and the other one.. too.

The first one is the “evergreen recipe” of Garlic Mustard Pesto. You can find many variants but this is the one I liked the most because it is easy, cheap and tasty. Ingredients for about 400 g of pesto:

  • 300 g of fresh green of Garlic Mustard,
  • 100 g of Pine seeds (or peeled almonds),
  • 60 ml of extra virgin olive oil,
  • salt to taste
  • 40 g of grated Parmisan (optional).

Put all the components into a mixer and serve, for example, with pasta, sandwiches and in quiches.

Recipe for Garlic Mustard mineral tonic vinegar:

  • 40 g of chopped fresh dandelion root,
  • 40 g of chopped Garlic Mustard root,
  • 30 g of chopped fresh burdock root (or 4 g of chopped dried burdock root that you can find in almost any health shop under the name of Glat Burre (Arctium Lappa)),
  • 23 g of chopped fresh parsley,
  • 18 g of fresh chamomile (or 1 g of crushed dried chamomile),
  • 6 g of chopped fresh peppermint,
  • 47 g of whole raisins,
  • 1 l of apple cider vinegar.

Pour vinegar over the ingredients, filling jar to the top. Make sure the vinegar covers all the ingredients by at least 5 cm. Use plastic lids (or at least not metal lids because they react with the vinegar). Store the vinegar in a cool dark place for one month and then strain the vinegar into a clean glass bottle, ready for use.

It is recommended the use in marinade (to, beside give a nice taste, also reduce the amount of pyrolysis compounds in the famous Danish summer barbecues), in salad and dressing.

And now…just enjoy, Green Blessings,

Beatrice

 

Shepherd purse: a potent herb which is almost forgotten 

   Would you ever immagine that funny shaped weed growing on your road side to be a potent medicine and a delicious spice?

Sometimes I still get amazed by how mother nature has chosen to place whatever we need right outside our front door. Food, medicine, or even love and happiness are very often just overseen by the way we are used to perceive the world around us.

In a more attentive world a weed would be a lot more than a weed: it would be food; it would be medicine; it would be a blessing for your and your family.

Wild field of shepherd purse

Maybe we have forgotten how to leave in harmony with Nature; in harmony with our selves and the others? Why using precious planet resources when sometimes the answer is already there? Do I always need a pill or is there a more sustainable and definitely better way to take care of my self?

Forgive the rhetoric this week, but in this time of climate change awareness and new political directions, I have given it more than a thought and my answer is: the beginning of change is in people minds. It is in the way they dress and eat; they talk and act; in the way they raise their kids.

You want to teach my kids respect and gratitude for Nature, also by teaching them the great power of plants and how to use them effectively for their health.

This one in particular is unknown to the most, but it was once a very popular herb for food and medicine. Want to know more? Let’s find out the secret power of Shepherd’s purse alias Capsella Bursa-Pastoris. Recipes are as always in the end…

Portrait of shepherd purse

The little plant usually grows in wild fields and across the road. It is definitely not a picky plant when we get to soils and weather conditions, even though it usually prefer colder climates which makes Denmark, the perfect place for harvesting Shepherd purse.

Wild field of shepherd purse in Kongens Lyngby, Denmark

The young plant develops in a rosette very similar to dandelion or chicory but the flower will quickly makes wrong identification impossible.

The plant is indeed known for its peculiar aspect. The small white flowers are quickly replaced by small seed “bags” that are heart shaped, and that resemble those bags English shepherds used to have.

Seed bags, flowers and basal leaf

This surprising weed has been used for centuries as a tincture for treating menstrual cramps and irregularities. It was once the first line plant for after birth hemorrhages.

It is a extremely potent plant and strong medicinal preparation like alcohol infusion (tincture) should be used carefully. This is because the plant is a very strong astringent which makes it extremely useful in case of bleeding (interna or external) but also dangerous in case you have a heart condition.

Capsella Bursa pastoris tincture

However the plant can be eaten safely since the compounds present in the eatable parts are very safe.

But how to eat shepherd purse?

The most delicious part is the basal rosette, which is also the most nutritious in vitamins and minerals. The basal leaves can be eaten both raw and cooked and are a nice addition to strir-fried vegetables and stuffing. The seeds and the flowers can be also eaten in moderation to give a spicy twist to dishes.

Capsella Bursa-pastors belongs to the Cruciferae family, meaning cabbage family. With them has in common the pungent taste which is especially present in the mature seed, that has turned into brown color.

Shepherd purse is a common spicy addition to Chinese dumplings

Flowers can be eaten as snacks if founded during a field trip to boost energy or can be added into salad to give some spicing. However I personally find them too fibrous to eat raw.

Medicinally it is one of the best herbs to stop hemorrhaging and has a prominent place in the first-aid kits of many midwives. It’s high concentration of tannin, tyramine, and other amines are what make it such an excellent remedy for excessive bleeding after childbirth.

Studies have confirmed that shepherd’s purse is high in oxytocin, a uterine contractor and its efficacy for excessive menstrual flow. [1] Either by itself or combined with yarrow and taken frequently throughout the day, it will arrest heavy bleeding. Taken several days before the onset of the period, it will lessen the flow considerably.

Shepherd purse is best when used fresh, so if you are lucky enough to have a wild patch growing near you, encourage its growth by letting it go to seeding.

Finding recipes for Shepherd purse has not been easy because it is a nice addition to many dishes, from Meat stuffing to salads and broths but it is almost never the main ingredient of a recipe because of its spiciness. However I would like to share with you today this very old recipe of infused wine, that can be used, according to this source, as a tonic, in cocktails, in salad dressing and to give extra flavor when wine steaming.

Shepherd purse aromatic wine

•1 l of white wine

•100-150 g of recently dried shepherd purse (areal parts)

Let macerate the plant in the wine for 80 days the chopped herb in the wine. Mix frequently during this period and in the end, filtrate though a cheesecloth.

The other recipe is a blended tea for heavy periods. The author is very well-know American herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar which is a real expert in women wellness.

Shepherd purse is also called Mothers heart

Menstrual flow normalizer tea blend

•2 parts nettle

•1 part shepherd purse leaf and flower (best fresh)

•1/2 part yarrow lead and flower

Use 4 to 6 Tbs of herbs per 200 ml of boiling water. Cover during infusion and let infuse for 20 min. Take few times a day at least 3 days before expected period and during.

Hope you like this week’s wild plant and that you will enjoy the recipes.

For questions and comments, I invite you to join our community “traditional herbalism Denmark” on Facebook or to follow my Instagram channel “the herbal geek”.

Of course you are also welcome to leave a message here.

Green blessing,

Beatrice