Garlic Mustard is on the loose! This invasive plant spreads like wildfire and can suppress native plant growth. Luckily, it is also delicious and makes a great pesto!
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is out and about in my corner of North Carolina. This early summertime plant is lush, green, and easy to pull out by the roots, and you should make an effort to do so if you find it in your hedgerow! It is considered an invasive plant across the United States as it spreads vigorously and crowds out the other plants nearby, threatening the biodiversity of an area. But don’t let that lovely weed go to waste! It is truly delicious and versatile, and well worth experimenting with in your kitchen. (Ellen Zachos of Backyard Forager has more to share about garlic mustard).
When you harvest garlic mustard, it is ok to pull up the whole plant to give the others a fighting chance – don’t worry, it comes back every year. For culinary purposes, the small leaves and flowers have the best flavor. The biggest leaves lose their sharp, garlicky flavor and get tough. Those older leaves can be tossed into a food processor to fill out a wild greens pesto, but they can also be used for rolling up dolmas or chopping into a salad.
Garlic Mustard Pesto Recipe
- 3 cups of garlic mustard leaves, lightly packed into a measuring cup
- 3 large cloves (not heads!) of garlic
- 1/4 cup of walnuts (use any nuts or seeds that you prefer)
- drizzles of olive oil
- lemon juice to taste
- sea salt to taste
- household spice blend (an ever-changing combination of seeds, peppercorns, dried herbs, and other goodies from around my yard)
Prepare the foraged garlic mustard by stripping the leaves off of the stems. Set aside the largest bottom leaves for dolmas or to toss into your compost bin. Toss the young, tasty leaves and flowers into a bowl. Not sure of how big is too big? Give the leaf a taste! If there’s not a garlic-ish, mustard-ish flavor, it’s too big.
Wash your greens (I love my salad spinner for this!) and dry them off as best you can. Add them to your food processor along with the rest of the ingredients – garlic, walnuts, a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of salt. Give it a whir, taste, and adjust the lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt until you are happy with the flavor.
I didn’t have any good parmesan on hand when I made this batch, so this recipe is vegan and vegetarian-friendly. However, feel free to add a bit of cheese if you do include dairy in your diet.
You can store your pesto in the fridge if you plan to use it within a day or two. For long term storage, freeze the pesto into ice cubes! Just thaw one as needed for pasta, dressings, marinades, or more.
I’m about to go make a big batch of garlic pesto egg salad for sandwiches over the next few days. Yum!
I love these jars! They are from the Art of Aperitivo kit at MasonJars.com – lovely Italian jars, fermenting lids, and much more.
Garlic Mustard: A Gold Mine of Food & Medicine: Chelsea Green Publishing
G3: a savory, garlic Gibson: Backyard Forager