4 posts tagged with “garlic mustard”

  • The Canadian Food Experience Project: Five garden weeds to put on your plate

    My garden is barely a postage stamp.

    Right now, it’s mostly a barren swath of soil, home to a clematis that keeps hitting the snooze button on the growing season and some early rising rhubarb that’s up but barely at ’em.

    I love it, though, for the gifts that it provides. Sure, I feel grateful when the herbs and vegetables I plant each year grow and thrive and reward me weeks and months later for what little effort I put into their upkeep.

    It’s the surprise gifts that I love more, though. The ones I don’t plant.

    The weeds.

    Yes, what other gardeners despise and work out the day’s frustrations by pulling, I take delight in letting grow. I don’t fret about these herbaceous squatters competing  with perennials who have seniority in my plot or annuals who lease prime real estate for a season. The reason is simple. Most of the weeds in my tiny plot are edible. They pack a health kick and more flavour than some of those invited guests we go to great lengths to make comfortable. I’m looking at you green leaf lettuce.

    Ever since the province imposed a cosmetic pesticide ban in 2008, lawns and gardens everywhere have become virtual salad bars. They’re filled with roots, leaves and blooms that had been all but banished from existence by those poison-carting tanker trucks  homeowners once hired to spray weeds into oblivion. And for that we should be grateful.

    Some food security advocates lobby for insect farming to feed the world. I say we should eat more weeds. They’re plentiful and effortless to grow, so why not take advantage of what’s on offer? Just forage for edible weeds where you know the ground isn’t contaminated (your backyard is a safe bet) and refer to a field guide to help you identify plants.

    Here are five common garden weeds that we should be putting on our plates instead of the compost heap:
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    Category In the Garden, In the Wild

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  • Peach Tree
  • A spring foraging primer

    It pains me to admit this, but I experienced my first foraging casualty this week.

    No, I didn’t feed my husband — or anyone else — a bad mushroom or toxic leaf. Instead, I killed my mini-food processor.

    I watched as it and some garlic mustard roots got their roles reversed and instead of the sharp, high-speed blades pulverizing the weed’s tap roots, those tough bastards broke my blade to bits.

    I unceremoniously tossed the processor — one of my first kitchen appliances, donated to me by my mother eons ago because I couldn’t afford, nor had the room for, a proper, large processor. It was a bitter good-bye made even worse by the fact that I had now wasted the evening harvesting, scrubbing and peeling the pointy roots and their tentacle-like offshoots only to have to chuck my handiwork and, well, my entire evening on the compost heap.

    And I had so been looking forward to the results, hot like horseradish with a garlicky kick, much like I’d sampled at a foraging workshop just two weeks ago.

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    Category In the Wild

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  • Peach Tree
  • Of wild violet jelly and career-limiting moves

    My boss bought me a chocolate chip cookie yesterday.

    A kind gesture, yes, but don’t be fooled into thinking there was anything altruistic about this. I’m certain this was a pity cookie.

    You see, my boss has taken to teasing me about my dining habits of late. I often tell him that he could pick an entire meal’s worth of food on his way home from the office, given he traipses through a forest that’s akin to a wild produce section.

    There’s garlic mustard, burdock, wild garlic, ramps, mayapples and plenty of dandelions.

    He laughs when I tell him this. Pokes fun at me because that’s where I stock up on the makings of pesto, jelly, frittata and stir-fries. Inquires about the welfare of my husband and whether he’s still alive or has wasted away on weeds. I’m certain he thinks I come home from work and put myself out to pasture in my backyard, grazing the night away like a cow.

    In fact, he has not-so-subtly hinted that’s what he thinks when he said my name and “out to pasture” in the same sentence recently. I’m fairly confident he wasn’t talking about my career.

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    Category In the Wild, Recipes

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  • Peach Tree
  • Forks over spray: A remedy for a garlic mustard invasion

    Garlic Mustard

    Everywhere I go, it’s there.

    Lurking.

    Beneath trees. Along walking trails. Peaking between shrubs in parks. Brazenly towering over everything in my neighbour’s garden.

    Garlic mustard is unabashedly ubiquitous this spring. It’s also Public Enemy No. 1. This “noxious weed” is known for spreading at a rapid-fire rate, choking other greenery, and with it diversity. It’s not just plants that are at stake. After all, a lot of forest-dwelling critters’ survival depends on that foliage that garlic mustard is crowding out.

    Municipalities have licence to spray it to death. Others, like the city of Edmonton, have organized community garlic mustard pulls with the hope of doing away with — or at least controlling — this unapologetic leafy green, an invasive species with roots in Europe.

    But garlic mustard was my hero at dinner last week when I decided to do my civic duty and try eradicating this pest by eating it. This is one wild edible with which you can throw foraging etiquette to the wind and take more — way more — than you leave behind.

    It’s hard to fathom that something edible is such a villain, especially because garlic mustard is touted as having the highest nutritional value of any weedy green. It’s full of vitamins A, C and E, boasts some B vitamins and is packed with minerals, including potassium, calcium and iron. Sounds like a scoundrel alright.

    Still, as I drove to Niagara-on-the-Lake Sunday, through a heavily treed area, and saw a wall of garlic mustard filling gaps between trunks, two thoughts crossed my mind: yikes and let’s eat.

    So, with a trowel in hand recently, I walked a very short distance out my front door — you really don’t have to venture far to find garlic mustard — to the trail with no name that runs next to Holy Cross Secondary School in St. Catharines and started uprooting some towering stalks with visions of pesto and being a good citizen dancing in my head.

    Garlic mustard aficionados will tell you the heart-shaped, jagged leaves are past their prime because most plants have started flowering, showing off their tell-tale white, sparsely petaled, delicate flowers. With their slight garlicky kick and bitter green aftertaste that’s unmistakably mustard, I thought those leaves tasted pretty darn good. And there’s nothing on this plant you can’t eat, from those blooms right down to the root, which I’ve read tastes like horseradish.

    Couples out for their pre-dinner stroll and stragglers at school making their way home along the gravel walkway eyed me with suspicion as I hunched over a thicket and sliced my trowel into the earth at its base. I wrestled with the parched soil clinging with all its might to the plant’s tap root and eventually won, carting my haul home with a mix of pride and fear that some naturalist would see me with my aromatic bouquet and scold me for not taking a match to it immediately.

    But I had pine nuts and Romano cheese to introduce it to, and a food processor to help along the getting-to-know-each-other phase.

    The result was a bright green, flavourful pasta paste that was without a doubt the best pesto I’ve ever eaten. Yes, even better than that pesto mainstay, basil. Milder than biting arugula pesto and more flavourful than sweet but subdued basil, garlic mustard was clearly meant to get on well with olive oil, cheese and pine nuts. Truly, I’ve never enjoyed a pesto more.

    Though I frightened him at first with a serving of “Noxious Weed Pesto Pasta,” my skeptical husband even wolfed down his plateful and took leftovers for lunch the next day.

    pasta noodles covered in garlic mustard pesto

    “Noxious weed pesto pasta”

    Garlic mustard is apparently good in salads, sandwiches, frittata, steamed and in stir-fries, too. I used my leftover pesto to perk up a batch of lentils I cooked up the next night, all the while delighting in having been a model citizen by taking on our parks department’s most wanted with my fork.

    Garlic Mustard Pesto

    Any pesto recipe will do, replacing the basil with garlic mustard but here’s mine:

    3 cups of garlic mustard leaves, washed
    2 cloves of garlic, peeled
    1 cup Romano cheese (you can use Parmesan but I use a sheep’s cheese because of a cow dairy allergy)
    1/3 cup pine nuts
    1/2 cup olive oil (add more, if you’d like, to get desired consistency)
    1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (to help keep the vibrant green colour)
    salt and pepper to taste

    Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add more olive oil, if necessary, to get desired consistency.

    Toss with pasta or lentils, or spread on crusty bread. Then pat yourself on the back for a civic duty well done. Stores up to three days.

    Remedy for a garlic mustard invasion on Punk Domestics
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    Category Recipes, Uncategorized

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