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Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

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Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Also known as jack-by-the-hedge or hedge garlic, this plant is an easy favourite with foragers, as it grows everywhere and in abundance. Woodlands, fields, hedgerows, roadsides, it thrives in any disturbed habitats… so there are many opportunities to forage this delicious wild edible. Its distinctive garlic-like aroma and flavour also make it straightforward to ID, so it’s a good starting plant for new foragers.

A Tasty Invasive

It’s an invasive species, which means it’s a sustainable and readily available food source with minimal impact on local ecosystems if you decide you want a big bunch of it for your dinner! Always make sure you are careful about how you pull-up and harvest the plant to avoid spreading it to any new areas on your return home.

How to ID… Garlic Mustard

This biennial herb typically grows between 30 to 100 centimetres tall, growing heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges and distinctive veining. As you have probably worked out, if you crush its leaf, it does smell garlicky. Not as much as wild garlic, but there is a faint smell. In it’s first year, the leaves are low-growing rosettes that are more kidney-shaped with scalloped edging. The leaves further up the stem on mature plants are more triangular and coarsely toothed. The small, white 4-petaled flowers grow in clusters at the top of the stem, appearing early spring.

Tastes like… Garlic and Mustard!

The leaves are freshest before flowering, which can be any time from September through to late Spring. They taste like

The tastiest part is the stem when young. It’s delicious raw – you can quickly chop them up and use them as flavouring for salads, stir-fries and any other dish that would enjoy a splash of green. The roots taste and smell like horseradish and you can use them in soups or stews as a root vegetable. When ground up, the seeds make a deliciously fresh mustard sauce. And if you dry the leaves, they make a lovely paste, such as wasabi.

Not To Be Confused With… Stinging Nettle

Garlic Mustard can be mistook for nettle leaves near the top of the stem, as they look very similar. However, garlic mustard’s leaves are more heart-shaped and don’t have any hairs. A stinging nettle leaf also has sharper serrated edge, that grow in pairs opposite each other, with inconspicuous greenish flowers.