Organic without sticker shock. Garden-fresh vegetables without planting, cultivating, or weeding… oh wait, it is the weed! As we all know, weeds grow faster and more successfully than most of the crops we plant and carefully cultivate. Garlic mustard, an invasive weed that spreads seemingly everywhere here in the northeast, is free for the pulling, organic, delicious, and high in nutrients.
I’ve been tossing a few garlic mustard leaves in my salads and sauteing handfuls of leaves and, in the process, happily decreasing the numbers of these plants that are crowding out native plants on our land. I’ve also had garlic mustard pesto, that one of my sons made last year.
Like many common foods, including lima beans, spinach, almonds, garlic mustard contains cyanide, so it is recommended that one not eat large quantities more than a couple of times a week. However, cyanide is reduced or eliminated by cooking, and since I eat most of my garlic mustard sauteed, rather than in salads, I’m not too concerned. It is also reported to be high in vitamin C, carotenoids, minerals, and fiber, so good for you as well as tasty.
Garlic mustard is a biennial plant, meaning it has a two year life cycle. The first year the plant germinates in the spring and grows as a low-growing rosette, and supposedly the leaves of first year plants are higher in cyanide and therefore more bitter. Second year plants grow as a stalk with triangular-shaped leaves of varying sizes growing off the full height of the stalk, with the larger leaves at the base. I’ve only been eating the leaves of second year plants, and I haven’t found them to be particularly bitter, but rather nicely flavorful. I’ve also read that summer heat can make the leaves more bitter, and so it’s best to choose shaded plants, once summer comes. I’ll be sampling throughout the summer and will report back.
The way I’ve been cooking my garlic mustard is to saute it briefly in extra virgin olive oil,
…then I add a few tablespoons of chicken broth, cover the pan, and let it cook for about five minutes, or until the broth is cooked down. And then I eat!
I would love to hear other recipes and thoughts about eating garlic mustard (or other invasive plants), so please comment if you have a favorite recipe.