Very few weeds in the world have withdrawn so much attention like Garlic Mustard, alias Alliaria Petiolata.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.
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.
Why Garlic Mustard is good for you: this plant is one of the most nutritious leafy green ever analysed. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 almounds),
60 ml of extra virgin olive oil,
salt to taste
1 Tbs Nutritional Yeast (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,
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Reference: : Edible Wild Plants, Wild Food Adventure Series, John Kallas, PhD, 2010, Published by Gibbs Smith