Monday, April 4, 2011

Eat your weeds, garlic mustard edition

Here's an inexpensive dinner idea:  mashed potatoes and... weeds?

Garlic mustard (Allaria petiolata) is an invasive thug in our landscapes and wild areas, taking over large areas if left unchecked.  I've certainly got my share of it in my yard.

Yesterday I went on a garlic mustard eradication mission in the back forty (i.e. back quarter acre).  Didn't get it all, alas, but I pulled up a grocery store bag's worth.  More than half went into the yard waste repository (for the moment, the county can compost it more safely than I can) but I collected about four cups of leaves for the kitchen.

Garlic mustard is here in the first place because it's edible.  It's an import from Europe, brought over for food and medicinal uses.  So (as I've been meaning to do for a long time now) I decided to use it for dinner.

Here's what I made:

I used this recipe for colcannon, a traditional Irish dish (which may have been made with garlic mustard before for all I know; it's usually made with cabbage or kale).

So how was the garlic mustard, you ask?  I like it.  It was pretty strong and bitter in that quantity, so I think if I do this again I'll use about half of a milder green (collards, kale, cabbage).  Besides, washing and separating all those little leaves is tedious.  If you're picking, I'd try to get the garlic mustard soon though, first because you then have a better chance of getting rid of it all, and secondly because the leaves will probably get more bitter as the weather warms and the plants that are in their second year go to flower.

I am not by any means suggesting you plant garlic mustard as a kitchen garden crop:  please don't!!  But since you probably have it anyway, you might as well get some good out of it on the way to ripping it all out (and unfortunately it will probably be back since not everyone is so vigilant).  If you're not busy enough in your own yard, some parks departments and other organizations have Garlic Mustard Pull days for the community in which you can go to a park with your friends and yank the stuff out to your heart's content (and maybe win prizes if you pull the most).

Always be sure, before eating a wild plant, that you are sure of the identification (many plants look alike but have different chemical effects) and have confirmed that it's edible.  Many weeds, such as dandelion and plantain, are great salad or cooked green ingredients.  Another that's out there now in desperate need of removal is hairy bittercress - I pulled some of that yesterday too, but decided not to include it in dinner because all those fussy little leaves were just too much to deal with.  I did snack a little though; it's fresh and tasty!

Enjoy getting rid of your weeds - and maybe eating them too!

4 comments:

  1. A friend told me recently that garlic mustard is edible, and I was thrilled with the prospect of eating a weed I pull out by the bushel.

    Thanks for the recipe! Here are some pesto recipes for our gustatory delight:
    http://www.ma-eppc.org/morerecipes.html

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  2. Thanks, Lena! Those recipes look great!

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  3. I just made GM pesto for Earth Day and will be making colcannon here soon. Thanks for the advice about cutting it with milder coles.

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    1. Excellent! I'm going to try the pesto myself soon, as my back forty is awash again.

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