Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Garlic mustard is a strange bugger. I notice it most often up against a wall, arms raised, like it's backing up away from an armed robber. It's not a lovely creature and is easily forgettable so it was never high on my "what-the-heck-is-its-name?" list. And yet, whenever I saw it, it'd make me laugh. A tall plant with toothed, heart shaped leaves at the base; pointing-to-the-heavens slender pods like arms; and a teeny tiny cluster of white flowers at the tippy top.

When I finally resolved to figure out the name of the thing, I cursed the sad fact that I don't know how to use a key, relying only on images and descriptions. And this plant, unlike Herb-Robert, is not at all photogenic. It's either all leaves or all arms or teeny tiny uninspiring flowers. All conspiring to make it frustrating for me to figure out.

The problem, I think, was simple. I'd missed the prime flowering season which must have been in April or May. At that time, there would have been richly colored green leaves and larger splashes of white flowers. By June, they were starting to pass and the seed pods were becoming a more dominant (and amusing) feature.

Garlic mustard. Also known as "Jack-by-the-hedge" and as "hedge garlic".

Garlic mustard. What sort of name is that to remember? Well, it turns out that the leaves are supposed to be quite tasty. If I had only ripped off a leaf or two and crushed it, I'd have noticed the smell of garlic. A recipe for Garlic Mustard Pesto calls for these ingredients:

4 cloves of Garlic
150g Garlic Mustard taproots
100g Parsley
150g Garlic Mustard leaves
50g Basil
200g Olives
250g Pine Nuts
120ml Miso
300ml Olive Oil

Yum! Doesn't that sound irresistible?

Now as I pass by, I think it's backing up away from me, arms in the air, shrieking "Don't eat me!"

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) 28May2010 Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) 31May2010
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) 03June2010 Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) 03June2010

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