Almost two months ago, I shared my dilemma about my local colony of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiola). In short, I was debating whether to be ecologically conscientious and remove this invasive biennial from my yard, or let it continue to grow so I could, well, eat it.
Garlic mustard flourishes in part shade, or full shade, or full sun, or anywhere it possibly can. It moves into the local ecosystem and disrupts native species which have more particular growing requirements. Disturbed areas and boundaries are among garlic mustard’s favorite habitats, but it grows equally well in the forest understory.
In my immediate area, the second year garlic mustard plants have just reached the optimal eating stage. I have seen plenty of plants on roadsides which were ahead of mine. For whatever reason, mine were just … a touch slow.
I’ll admit, I was apprehensive about harvesting and eating garlic mustard. I’d previously only sampled the first year leaves, in the fall and winter. Let’s just say, those fell into the “edible but not particularly tasty” category, like hairy bittercress. I have heard the first-year leaves make good pesto, but no one in my family eats pesto regularly so I didn’t bother trying.
I’m pleased to report that the second year flowering stalks were actually pretty tasty, if you happen to like cooked greens. They were milder in flavor than I was expecting, given how pungent the first-year leaves are. Closer to broccoli rabe than to dandelion or other wild greens.
I harvested them by cutting them off at the base. Once inside, I snapped off the tough and woody bottoms of the stems. There seems to be a natural breaking point, like with asparagus stalks. Although truth be told, I experienced a few bites that were especially high in, um, insoluble fiber. That’s extra healthy for your gut, right?
After I trimmed and washed the stalks, I roughly chopped them, then boiled them in water for just three minutes. If you were cooking pasta, you could add the greens into the boiling water near the end, and cook them that way. I drained mine, and then added them to a pan of chopped chicken sausage and minced field garlic. Once everything seemed hot and thoroughly mixed, I added a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I would have added pine nuts too, but didn’t have any on hand.
The dish was delicious. My kids might have even tried it, if they hadn’t seen me harvesting them and storing the stalks in a container water in the fridge until I had enough for a meal. Sigh.
I could see using garlic mustard in any recipe that calls for spinach, cooked kale, or other greens – creamed, sauteed with bacon, etc. I have not yet tried garlic mustard without boiling it first, so stay tuned for information on that front.