May 2021: Eat the Garlic Mustard

Spring foraging is full of delicious, peppery greenery, and it is the prime time to eat one plant in particular: garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is easily identifiable by its scalloped leaves and its pungent, garlicky odor. In its first year, garlic mustard is a low-lying rosette of leaves. In the second year, it sends up a shoot of white flowers with four petals per flower. We can steam these stalks like asparagus, flowers and all. The leaves are a fantastic addition to pesto, stir-fries, soups, quiches, and anywhere else you might use swiss chard or kale. It’s also full of nutritious ingredients!

Being that this is an invasive plant (European settlers brought it over), collect all of it from your yard. Make removing invasives a fun, family activity by having a big pesto and pasta party! You can even add a “Spring Pickings” salad, with dandelion and plantain leaves sprinkled in. Going for a festive look? Add the blossoms of redbud, violet, or dandelion.

At the very least, cut all garlic mustard flower stalks once they’ve begun wilting—this prevents them from going to seed and spreading more of this plant into our wild landscape. This pervasive invasive doesn’t provide for our local wildlife and suppresses the growth of native plants, so it’s best to get rid of it. Why not eat it?