Plant Ally: Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Part eaten: leaf. Height: 1-3 ft. Spring and fall.
Garlic mustard is my very favorite foraged green often replacing lettuce, kale, and other leafy vegetables in my diet. You can find it growing abundantly along wood edges, trails, and roadsides. This wild weed is considered by many to be an invasive species because it is not indigenous to North America and has root systems that interfere with some native plants. The best revenge? Eat it! Identify Garlic Mustard, which does not have any poisonous look-alikes, by it's palm-size heart-shaped leaves and by it's garlicky smell when you tear the leaf and rub it between your fingers. To harvest, simply pinch off the leaves from the stem with a sharp thumbnail. Although it's not actually a member of the garlic family, Alliaria's pungent taste is great in stir-fries, torn and tossed into salads, and as a basil substitute in pesto. Below is one of my favorite ways to use this lovely plant ally!
Garlic Mustard Pesto
4 cloves of garlic
3 cups garlic mustard leaves, gently rinsed
1-1/2 cup low-sodium olives
2 cups walnuts or pine nuts
1/2 cup mellow miso paste
1-1/4 cups olive oil or as needed
In a food processor combine the garlic, garlic mustard leaves, and olives. When those are blended nicely, add in the nuts and continue to mix. Pour in the olive oil, spoon in the miso paste, and process until you've created a smooth and spreadable pesto texture. This recipe will make about 3 delicious cups!
As always, take care to practice the ethics of foraging by not harvesting more than 10% of the plant colonies, and never harvest more than what you'll use. For safety, it's best to have an experienced forager help you positively identify all plants before you set about gathering and eating them.