Posts Tagged With: Garlic Mustard

Wild Muther****in’ Cookery, B****es!

Why hello there foragers, friends, and fiends!

‘Tis been an awful long time since I posted anything in this blog. Not been doing much foraging with 3 feet of snow on the ground.

It’s been the most god-awful winter I can remember in almost 40 years. Brutal, horrible, and nigh-neverending.

I absolutely cannot wait for it to be over and for the Spring thaw to finally take effect. Though I’m not looking forward to the flooding, that’s for sure.

Let’s take a look at my garden…

Winter2

Hmm… yea, that sucks.

Winter1

So does that. Ok, no green stuff for me any time soon.

But… today is the 1st of March. This goram winter can’t last forever!

And when Jack Frost finally stumbles and the first shoots of spring pop up, I will be there to collect and nom them!

Wintercress and Wild Garlic will be amongst the first to pop up. Along with Dandelions and Garlic Mustard.

Just thinking about it makes my stomach growl. I’ve been resigned to a diet of ‘people’ food this winter, and let me tell you, there’s nothing worse for someone who’s used to eating wild. I’ve gained weight and feel like crap.

Time for a Spring diet of real food soon, methinks.

I hope all of ye are having a pleasant end of winter, and I certainly hope none of ye have to deal with more snow that I do.

All the best!

~Janos

Categories: Education, Foraging | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Joys of Foraging

Ah foraging. Yes, foraging…

That most wondrous of activities that allows us to share in nature’s bounty whilst at the same time being a part of (as opposed to distinctly removed from) nature.

Though, I haven’t been foraging anything for quite a few months. Foraging Pennsylvania in the wintertime is not exactly a pleasant activity. It’s possible, if need drives such a thing. Just not very ‘joyful’. Hunting on the other hand, is wondrous in Pennsylvania over the winter. I haven’t hunted for years, but there is a plethora of big and small game here that is a hunter’s dream come true.

But we are slowly nearing the end of winter.

Springtime is just around the corner. Though most here wouldn’t believe it. We’re still getting snow and twenty-degree weather here at night, and the ground is still frozen solid.

But like the slow march of inevitability, Spring must finally break, sooner or later.

Two months from now the forest floor will be carpeted in verdant greenery like one reads about in fairy tales and stories of olde.

Forest Floor

Life shall spring anew from the dormant soil, and shoots will push up through the now frozen ground to breathe new life into a world now in stasis.

And during this time of rapid growth, is perhaps the best time to be learning about, and foraging for, wild plants. Especially greens. There is nothing in the world like fresh spring greens, both in quality and quantity. They are typically more tender and, depending upon the plant, much less bitter, than older plants. Remember: rapid growth = tender and delicious when it comes to edible plants. Spring greens are no exception.

For me, there is nothing in the world like that first dish made with fresh spring wild garlic (Allium canadense), dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), and dock (Rumex crispus/obtusifolius). It’s a yearly spring ritual at our house. All fried up in olive oil, with a dash of cracked black pepper and ancient sea salt, and served over a nice bed of rice.

There are few culinary pleasures that it can compare to after being frozen solid for typically five months from late November to mid to late March or April.

But those first delicious wild garlic greens are likely still two months off.

What will come up first are the garlic mustard. (Allaria petiolata)

Garlic Mustard Groundcover

As well as the mustardy wintercress greens (Barbarea spp) and other Brassicacea. Whilst nowhere near as delicious, in my opinion, as the wild garlic, they do provide some much needed spring nutrients after a winter of dormancy and being cooped up in the house all season long. So, even though less delectable, they are still very highly desired.

Brassica 2

As spring unfolds here in the Frozen Northlands, I’ll be sure to post some pictures as things thaw out and provide that first delicate snack of the season!

Brassica 1

A field of Brassicacea as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately by the time the flowers have opened they are super bitter. If you see a sight like this, remember where they are for next year and get them before the flower buds open!

 

Categories: Food Health, Food Storage, Foraging, Green, Nature, Nature Photos, Organic, Plant Photos, Preparedness, Survival, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garlic Mustard Madness

Ah, the humble and sometimes hated Garlic Mustard…

Known in the hoity-toity world of Latin based taxonomy as ‘Alliaria petiolata.’

Garlic Mustard GC

I just love Latin taxonomy names. Especially since I learned all the plants the old fashioned way from my father who never referred to this plant as an ‘Alliaria petiolata’, and would have wondered what the heck I was talking about if I’d called it that and not ‘Garlic Mustard’. Yep, Latin names. Just love them to bits. And they make oh-so-much sense. Oh well, it gives me something to do in the second half of my life. Maybe if I work really hard at it I’ll sound like an official ‘expert’ in the next few decades. 😉

But ‘Alliaria petiolata’… It’s one of those Latin names that I forget quite often, (right up there with Hypochaeris radicata), but know it instantly again whenever I see it written in text. Allaria is a reference to the garlic family, and petiolata is a reference to being long stemmed. This is one of those rare exceptions where the Latin name actually makes sense.

This oft reviled plant is actually one of nature’s powerhouses of nutrition. It’s eaten and adored in Europe, and we spend all kinds of public funding here to eradicate it by spraying and burning, and herbicides. No one seems to bother with the logical solution. Eat it!

The leaves, stems, and even roots of this plant are edible. In fact, it’s one of those lovely plants which, like a dandelion, are edible 100% of the time of year. Even the seeds and seed pods are edible if you really want to eat them.

So, what does it look like in depth, and how do we identify it?

Let’s take a leisurely tumble through the tasty realm of the humble and hated garlic mustard.

One can find many pictures of this plant on the net, some good, some not. But rarely will you actually find anything that shows you the plant in it’s younger and less identifiable stages.

I strive to use my own pictures for everything, and try to include ones that have some manner of clarity towards the parts of the plants that are in the most need of accurate identification. I hope they help.

This plant is definitely a Brassicaceae (also genus Brassica), as you will see if you are even passingly familiar with the ‘mustard’ family of plants.

Garlic mustard starts life as a little guy, who soon forms a basal rosette.

Garlic Mustard 1st Year Oct

At this stage it can be hard to identify if you aren’t familiar with garlic mustard, as it looks like any number of other green little plants.

Garlic Mustard Leaves 1st Year Oct
However, note the root and the sharp upturned ‘L’ like way the main root curves?

Garlic Mustard Root 1st Year Oct
That’s pretty prominent in any garlic mustard that I’ve ever dug up, and it’s also a good aid in identifying the plant.

The young basal leaves of this plant look quite different from the mature leaves, which have a more pointed shape. All are easy to recognize once you’ve seen the plant through all stages of it’s life-cycle, you’ll begin seeing this plant everywhere. Which, if you are in a temperate forested area like I am, will indeed be darn near everywhere, on the side of the road, near any forested area.

This is what the plant looks like in the ‘wild’. Though in this case, it’s outside my back door near my planter. No, I didn’t plant it there, it just grew there. I’ll harvest it before it goes to seed this year. This picture was taken in January and shows how big the plant is already having just grown from seed the previous fall and how it’ll bolt up in the spring.

Garlic Mustard - Back Planter

I found a large second year plant last spring that was still in a bushy basal rosette, and brought it into captivity so I could photograph it as it grew.

Pet Garlic Mustard 2

Here is the plant when it bolted. It did so quite quickly, and grew to a large size very rapidly.

Pet Garlic Mustard 3b

Here is a picture of the close up of the soon-to-be-blooming stem. Notice how the leaves are vastly more arrow shaped versus the original rounded or kidney shaped leaves of the basal rosette.

Pet Garlic Mustard 4b

Also, this plant can grow to a very large size. Here one of the mature basal leaves is almost as big as my hand.

Pet Garlic Mustard 5

Unfortunately, even though this plant did grow quite large, it didn’t bloom from lack of sunlight in it’s location in my nearly lightless garage, so we’ll have to go back to the wild do show you some blooms.

Garlic Mustard Blooming 1
The older name for the genus is ‘Cruciferae’ “Cross-bearing”. An allusion to the way the flower petals of this genus form a cross. This also makes them very easy to identify when in bloom.

The flowers have four petals in typical mustard fashion. The petals are very strikingly white. It will have six stamen. Four longer and two shorter, like all members of Brassica.

Though you won’t really need that detail to identify this plant in bloom. The arrow shaped leaves and white cross flowers should be enough.

The leaves along the stem are very arrowhead shaped in comparison to the lower basal rosette leaves which tend to be rounded or kidney shaped.

Garlic Mustard 2nd Year Bolt
As the plant matures, it gains the very prominent long signature seed pods with tiny black seeds that mustards are famous for, and which in other mustard varieties are made into the common condiment we call, not surprisingly, ‘mustard’.

The plant is prolific. Mostly because it exudes a chemical into the soil that kills off mycorrhiza in the soil as well as most competing plants. [1] Thus, enabling it so slowly take over. It’s a nasty little bugger. But it’s also delicious when properly prepared. And it’s pure nutritional dynamite.

I like to briefly boil (5 minutes) then fry the leaf greens with something fatty, such as bacon, or with olive oil and then serve over whatever you like. In my case, rice.

The upper several inches of the stem can be made like asparagus. Just snap it off where tender on the stem, and cook the whole thing. Even though it’s called ‘garlic mustard’, I don’t find it to have any real kind of ‘garlic’ taste. Thus, I like to pair mine with some fresh wild garlic greens to spice things up!

The roots are also edible, and quite spicy. Think horseradish, but not quite. Though I haven’t used these for much, they are edible. (I’m not a huge fan of horseradishy flavored things.)

If you eat this plant, many people will thank you. Or at least they would if anyone cared about the forests becoming a monoculture. Eat all you can find, and worry not. Nature will make more.

This plant can really take over, and has done so in many northern areas, such as Pennsylvania. Apparently the seeds need a freezing component to germinate, which would explain why it’s advance south has been somewhat halted.

As far as I have seen, and ever read, there are no toxic lookalikes [2], but do your homework and research and be sure of the plant you have. It’s pretty hard to misidentify this plant, but I’ve seen it done before.
If you ever mis-identify this plant, it’ll probably be for young Ground Ivy or another of the Mustard family of plants. Maybe even a violet. If you’re drunk. Or don’t know your plants very well. 😉 None of which are harmful and are also edible.

There are also much better ways to control this plant than simply trying to physically eradicate it [3], and the one I like is perhaps the most simple. Eat more of it! Or start eating it, if you aren’t eating it now. Though I do highly recommend the linked references below for identification purposes.

I don’t typically do references, as I don’t typically write from anything other than my personal experience. I find that to write about things which one does not have direct experience with to be disingenuous, and dangerous, especially where edible and toxic plants are involved. However, I’ve included some references for your further reading enjoyment and education.

References

1. “Edible Wild Plants” Dr. John Kallas, PhD pps 231 – 248

2. ‘Wildman’ Steve Brill. http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Garlic%20Mustard.html

3. Janet Van Sloun Larson. Natrual Resource Specialist, City of Minnetonka, Natural Resources Division. http://www.eminnetonka.com/public_works/natural_resources/restoration/documents/garlic_mustard_presentation.pdf

* Also be sure to check out Green Deane Jordan’s site: www.eattheweeds.com It’s my favorite source for all things wild, edible, and delicious

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Nature, Nature Photos, Preparedness, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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