The Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is up!
This is one of our first wild edibles to emerge in the spring and I just love it. These spicy and somewhat bitter greens (they get more bitter as they get older) are great raw in a wild salad or make a delicious pesto when blended with olive oil and sea salt- recipe below! Nutritionally, the leaves are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, sulpher, iron and anti-oxidants. They also contain allicin, which is what gives them (and garlic!) their garlicky smell and the many medicinal benefits that go along with that compound. The roots are edible too and taste like horseradish- try them soaked in raw apple cider vinegar to make pickled "wild horseradish" roots, grated as a horseradish substitute, or use them in Fire Cider for some bioregional flair!
Medicinally-speaking, Garlic Mustard is a warming bitter so it aids digestion, increases digestive secretions, and improves nutrient assimilation. It has immune-stimulating compounds (like the allicin) and is especially good for infections in and excess phlegm in the lungs. It is also excellent liver support- which means detoxification- and including Garlic Mustard in your diet in the spring makes for a gentle spring cleanse. It is a spring tonic and exemplifies "food as medicine."
Identification is easy! It grows everywhere (in the pioneer valley and beyond), especially edges between forest and field and places with wetter soil. If you think might have Garlic Mustard simply crush-up a leaf and if it smells garlicky then that's what you've got. There are no poisonous look a-likes that also have that distinctive smell. Some folks look down on this plant because it is opportunistic (there is NO need to worry about over-harvesting this one-ever), but I say "thank you for your medicine and food" and "eat the weeds!"
GARLIC MUSTARD PESTO
• 3 cups garlic mustard greens, chopped and packed. (Pick greens from an unsprayed area and thoroughly wash)
• 1.5 c walnuts (optional but nice)
• 1 tsp- 1tbsp garlic mustard root, sliced
• 1 c fresh basil, chopped and packed (optional)
• 6 tbsp virgin olive oil (add more if needed)
• Sea Salt to taste
• 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
• extra garlic to taste (I'm a garlic fanatic so I often add a few more cloves to the mix)
Process ingredients in food processor, take liberties to adjust ingredients to taste and explore flavoring with other medicinal and culinary herbs!