Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rejoice and Beware! The Garlic Mustard is coming up!

Last week, while climbing around Kennesaw Mountain I noticed that the Garlic Mustard is on its way and for those of us with a hunger as well as a passion to keep Kennesaw Mountain healthy, dinner is fast approaching!

Last year, Kennesaw National Battlefield Park had a Garlic Mustard clean-up weekend which provided commraderie and fun for a lot of people.  This little pest turns up early in the season and is very invasive.  By the time it turns to seed sometime in May, it casts thousands of seeds into the environment.  Hardier than many of our native plants, it overtakes areas where you would normally find bloodroot, toothwort and many other native species. 

How to identify Garlic Mustard:

It has heavily veined, scalloped leaves, and the flower heads are little personal bouquets for gnomes.  Note in the picture to the right that these flowers come in a cluster and are comprised of 4 petals in the shape of a cross.  When a leaf is bruised it smells like garlic but don't just use this description to find a specimen.  Make sure to check other sources and people. 

To harvest/or remove Garlic Mustard: take out the entire plant including the roots
early in the season before it has a chance to flower. Young leaves
are best for pesto (and for salads or as a steamed green). Use only the
leaves for the recipe below. Remove the roots from the area you are clearing as
they will re-establish themselves if left in a pile on the ground.   Beware:  If you
pull up garlic mustard after it has flowered  it will still develop the
seedhead even after it is pulled from the ground so eating it is much more productive.


Having said all that, I hope the folks that cleaned up the mountain took their garlic mustard home for a lovely meal or two.  This beautiful but invasive plant is a delightful addition to a number of meals and is well suited to a variety of recipes.  Jennifer Chesworth of Centre Hall, Pennyslvania offers us a few possibilities.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Pesto
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Pine Nuts or Walnuts
1/2 Cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
Enough Garlic Mustard leaves to choke a horse (or to clear a forest floor)

Finely mince the walnuts and garlic mustard. An electric coffee grinder
works like a charm.

Add Oil and Cheese, serve with pasta or rice or other whole grain.  For
vegan pesto use Nutritional Yeast instead of Cheese.

Stir Fried Buds with Garlic Mustard and Mushrooms

Gather from an unsprayed area and wash well:
2 cups of 1/2" to 1" daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)buds
2 cups garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata)

other ingredients:
1 T. roasted sesame oil
1 T. sesame seeds
1 t. grated fresh ginger
1 cup mixed wild mushrooms (any kind will be good)

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil, sesame seeds, and ginger.  Lower
the heat to medium and add the mushrooms and daylily buds. Cover for 5
minutes. Uncover and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the garlic
mustard and stir until wilted and the mushrooms are done.... 3 - 5 minutes.

Note: This is a wonderful side dish. Add chicken or shrimp and serve over
wild rice for a main course. This is one dish that will change minds when
it comes to eating wild foods!

For a few more of Jennifer's recipes, go to:

Bon Apetit!

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