Have you ever foraged for wild edibles? It’s something I used to do with my dad when I was young. We would hike through the forest looking for his prized “Hen of the Woods,” mushroom that he ate since he was a boy in Italy. He used to collect the mushrooms in a basket so that the spores would be able to fall to the ground and reproduce. I used to be so sceptic of collecting food from the woods and cooking it for dinner! Foraging for mushrooms is still something my dad loves to do and if the season is right and he’s up for a visit he always takes the kids into the woods hunting for mushrooms.
Garlic Mustard is new to me. It is an invasive species that is easy to find, and especially tasty in the spring. Ava took a “Wild Edibles” class at an Environmental Center near us last year and learned a lot about edible plants in our area. I have put my trust in her and with the arrival of the warm weather she took Leo on a nature walk in search of garlic mustard so that she could make us all some delicious pesto. It’s funny, when children feel empowered and given some autonomy to be trusted and do things on their own – they really shine. Ava and Leo were so excited to find the mother load of garlic mustard in the woods on our trail. They picked it, cleaned it and are now busy making it into a pesto to add to tonight’s dinner.
We like using the leaves to make pesto, but they also taste great added to a salad. The leaves, roots and flowers are all edible – the stalks are tasty sautéed if you get to them before they flower. Leaves in any season can be eaten, but they do taste bitter once the weather gets hot. The name’s no lie. Garlic mustard is filled with a fresh garlic character and a fiery mustard bite. The pesto it makes is great on pasta, toast, and as a meat rub. We also love to mix it with some mayo and add it to sandwiches or a cold pasta salad.
These plants are hard to misidentify, but I would recommend looking them up online or getting a good field guide to be sure you are picking the right thing. A telltale sign that you’ve found the right plant is if you crush the leaves or stems they will smell unmistakably of garlic.
Here’s our Garlic Mustard Recipe:
- 2 cups Garlic Mustard leaves
- 1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil (add more depending on desired consistency)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- (Sometimes we add about 6 or 8 sun-dried tomatoes and some fresh basil)
- In a food processor or blender combine garlic mustard leaves, nuts, garlic and parmesean
- While the processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil until mixture is smooth.
- Buon Apetito! Enjoy!