Garlic Mustard

The Hunt The Meal

Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard was originally introduced in North America, like a number of other invasive exotics, as a food plant. It quickly took to this new environment and now can be found in good quantity all over the country.

Unlike a lot of forageable greens, garlic mustard has tender, delicious leaves absent of the bitterness so often present in wild plants. The leaves are delicious cooked, but the aroma and delicate flavor are more present when the plant is eaten raw. Below I have two recipes for raw preparation: pesto and hummus.

I was a longtime skeptic of wild greens pesto. Basil is such a delicious and aromatic plant, it was hard for me to imagine that any other pesto could be as tasty. Garlic mustard changed that for me. It has its own delicate flavor and adds a delicious brightness to a pesto. I think I might even like it better than basil pesto.

Garlic mustard is also a delicious addition to hummus. Not only does it add nutrients, but that bright, garlicky flavor comes through and makes this hummus taste like springtime.

It often grows in big patches and it is an exotic, so you don’t need to feel any guilt about how much you take. So, read my foraging notes and then go pick yourself a few tightly packed cups and make some pesto and hummus!

Foraging Notes:
Garlic mustard is invasive in North America. As a result, you are likely to find it in disturbed areas. There was a recent thinning operation near my house and the result is a veritable field of garlic mustard. Presently, it is growing as a low cover, but pretty soon those stalks might be 3 feet tall. Unlimited free greens!

Look on the sides of trails and anywhere recently disturbed. Once you know it, you’ll find it all over the place.

Garlic mustard is a biennial plant, growing the first year only as a small rosette of leaves. The second year the plant becomes easier to identify. But it is a very invasive weed, so if you spot one, you’re likely to see many more and you can hone your foraging skills on those first year plants nearby.

Leaf shape changes a little bit as the plant matures. All leaves are deeply veined with a texture that reminds me of elephant ears. Young leaves and leaves lower on the plant tend to be more heart shaped with rounded teeth, while older and higher leaves are triangular with a defined point and coarse teeth. They can also be identified by the clusters of four-petaled white flowers that they’re starting to put out now.⁠

Early in the season they may grow as a low ground cover with those heart-shaped leaves, but as their season progresses they will shoot up to as tall as 3 feet with the leaves higher on the stem growing in the more recognizable triangular shape with the large, coarse teeth.

Garlic Mustard Pesto:
1 packed cup garlic mustard
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp walnuts
¼ tsp salt (start here and salt to taste)
½ cup good olive oil

Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth. Salt to taste.

Makes excellent pizza sauce and is, of course, great on pasta.

Garlic Mustard Hummus:
1 packed cup garlic mustard
1 can chickpeas
½ cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup good olive oil
¼ tsp cumin
Juice of a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to the food processor and blend until smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add water 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Serve with warm pita bread and sliced vegetables.


Disclaimer: with any foraging, make sure that you positively ID a plant before you eat it. Don’t use only this guide. Plants vary tremendously within a species, so make sure you look at lots of pictures and several guides. Be safe!

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