Eat the Invasives (Garlic Mustard)
Unless we’ve been diligent in the fall planting for an early spring harvest, our gardens are not always as green as we want at this time of the year. There are however plenty of “weeds” (read: unwanted plants) to eat if we make the effort to identify them and to harvest them form “clean” places. The time to gather chickweed and hairy bittercress is mostly over here in my neck of the wood, but now is prime time to gather garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is a non-native viscerally hated by many people because it does spread like crazy. Since it is allelopathic, it produces compounds that deter other (native) plants from growing, it really can wreck the little remaining wildness we have. It is not picky about where it grows but seems to prefer open woods and lightly shaded area. In fact, volunteers gather to help clear it from the National Shenandoah Park on a regular basis. So, do your part: eat it. Make sure that you pull out the whole plant including the roots when you harvest so as to to give the plant a chance to grow more flowers or do continue to produce allelopathic compounds thru its roots.
Garlic mustard is flavorful, pungent even … but not as pungent as arugula. When minced or processed in a food processor, it retains it beautiful green color (unlike basil). The 2 quick-to-make recipes I share take advantage of those 2 characteristics. In each case, only use the tender tips (flowers are OK) and fresh-looking unblemished leaves. Wash and dry in a salad spinner. Discard the remaining plant material (especially the roots) in your burn pile (or sigh… the trash) because of its allelopathy.
Either recipe can be frozen in small quantity for later use.
GARLIC MUSTARD CHIMICHURRI
Based on a recipe from Paul Virant, The Preservation Kitchen
- 1 cup garlic mustard tops (or mustard greens or arugula), coarsely chopped
- 1 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
- 2 spring garlic/garlic scallion (or substiture garlic chives or green onion tops)
- grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (preferably organic)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 pinch cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup extar virgin olive oil
Blend all together in a food processor just to combine, drizzling in the olive oil while blending.
Use it as a dip, as a sauce for grilled veggies, poultry, meat, or a robust fish
GARLIC MUSTARD PESTO
- 4 to 5 cups garlic mustard tops (I really don’t measure, but sort of loosely fill the food processor)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped nuts (the pix show almonds because I like them, but any nuts or even sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds will do very nicely)
- Extra Virgin olive oil – just enough to moisten it to the consistency you like – maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup of hard grated cheese (parmesan, romano, cheddar… whatever you have)
Blend the garlic mustard & nuts together in a food processor just to combine, drizzling in the olive oil while blending until the mix reaches a consistency you like. Turn the blade off and scrape the side of the bowl with a spatula a few times. I mostly use mine to spread on bread, so I keep it pretty thick (see pic below). Add salt & cheese, and whirl just to combine.
How to use: as a spread; mix with mayo; toss with pasta or soba noodles; spoon some on top of a bowl of brown rice.