Foraging has come back into vogue (if indeed it every went out of style) and one of the “trendiest” plants to eat is the invasive plant garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata). I started to read about this just about the time I started my blog in 2010 and it has now exploded online with recipes for garlic mustard pesto (most commonly) and garlic mustard horseradish made from the roots of the plant (most recently. The plant has a long tap root so I can see that it would be good for this).
I have been in a somewhat winning battle with garlic mustard on my property–I just about think I have it all and the stuff comes roaring back from somewhere. I was shocked to find a patch this large when I went to take my photos! But that’s why it’s an invasive, right? Still, I have knocked it back substantially from when I first realized that it was running amok on our property and I now try to keep at least the second year (flowering) plants ripped out so that they don’t create more plants. My neighbors do not do the same which is why I fear I can’t completely eradicate it (that, and the fact that I don’t dig up all the first year rosettes, meaning I will have plants every year for many years).
Garlic mustard is a bienniel, meaning the first year it forms a harmless looking little rosette. You can easily overlook it. These are the rosettes. Just perfect for pesto. I think this patch formed when we removed a bunch of invasive brambles last year. So we traded one invasive for another, apparently.
The following year it sends up a flower stalk and then flowers and sets seed. That’s when it’s most important to get it out, if you’re only going to do it once and do it before it goes to seed! This is the flower stalk. Luckily I didn’t find too many of these.
But if you’re going to make pesto, why not get the tender, first year rosettes and save the trouble of letting the plant flower at all?
And since this is a gardening blog, not a cooking one, I will let you all seek the recipes for pesto and horse radish out there on the web. I haven’t tried any myself so I can’t recommend one. Just make sure, whatever you do, that you have properly identified the plant (as always) and that it hasn’t been sprayed with anything. Then enjoy!