Last week, coming home from the Amish farm, the car was moving along the quiet, not-often-used roadway when it suddenly came to a screeching halt.
"What?" said Fred, startled.
"I think that plant back there is garlic mustard," said the Handmaiden.
The car backed up slowly, as HM carefully watched the ditch that was bordering the road. "There it is!" sez HM.
HM apologized to Fred, "See, I've been looking for garlic mustard for a while, and I think that's some right there," she said pointing to a luxurious green growth on the side of the woody, viney ditch. And sure enough, when HM got some leaves to sample, it tasted garlicy and spicy. Beware of traveling with a forager; you'll be subject to stops and starts and other strange behavior when the forager think she sees a particular plant.
Garlic mustard is considered an awful invasive plant by those folks who think in such terms. It is on the Plant Conservation Alliance's Least Wanted list. It even has a poster, just like a murderer has a poster in Post Offices and such. However, for a wildcrafter or forager, it's a good find for both food and medicine options. And I'm not so sure that getting all het up about a plant being "invasive" is a great idea. The wonderful Rose at Prodigal Gardens has a very thoughtful and thought-provoking essay on "invasive" plants. I found her writing on this topic very interesting and I suggest if you are interested in foraging and other like topics that you read that essay. Here's a couple of paragraphs from it:
It may be no accident that these same weeds that are busily working to restore the land are also some of our most powerful healers. “Noxious weeds” like dandelion, burdock and garlic mustard are nutritional powerhouses that offer themselves to us humans in super-abundance to help us to nourish our depleted bodies, leach environmental toxins, and otherwise help us to cope with our industrialized world. Yet instead of receiving the gifts these plants bring with them, alien species are villanized and portrayed as terrorists, competing with crops, threatening to reclaim fields, re-route waterways, starve the herds, the list goes on.
Most of the charges being leveled at invasive plants have to do with their disruption of human activities and land management practices. . In one brochure I picked up it states that invasive plants “reduce agricultural yields, decrease gathering opportunities, and hinder recreational activities. Eurasian watermilfoil chokes waterways and restricts boat access, while the toxic properties of wild parsnip deter hiking and other land-based activities.” It would seem as though these plants were declaring war on us! From a Gaia perspective these might be considered intelligent strategies for protecting the land, but from a human perspective it is a major threat.
The economic impact is calculated at some 138 billions of dollars per year. These figures factor in the cost of research, conservation projects, labor, crop losses, devaluing of land, and the high price of chemical and other eradication programs. Fortunately, herbicide manufacturers are willing to help shoulder the burden of getting rid of invasives. Monsanto, for example, has been instrumental in the formation of the Exotic Pest Plant Councils.
Garlic mustard greens are very nutritional, having goodly amounts of Vitamins A, C, E and some of the B vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and magnese. Check it out here. It's very pungent/spicy and a bit bitter. I steamed a good bunch of the greens and we've been eating them in various dishes. This is how I handle most wild greens, since Michael doesn't particularly like them just plain. I add them to soups, stews, rice dishes, casseroles, omlets and the like. In other dishes, he doesn't notice the slight bitterness as it is balanced by other, usually milder or sweeter flavors.For every one page on edible or medicinal uses of garlic mustard, you'll find hundreds of the "horrible invasive weed" type. Still, thank goodness there are some, such as Wildman's, on garlic mustard.
I'm about to make some pesto from the other bag of leaves I reseved from the steamed greens. I'll use the recipe from Prodigal Gardens. If you find some, but don't care for the pungent/bitter flavor, do try it in a pesto. A little pesto added to a minestrone or Tuscany bread soup is wonderful, adding a lot of flavor and nutritional richness.