Spotting beautiful white flowers next to a lake I eagerly walk towards the lake to investigate.
I take a photograph on my Plant Net app and they clearly show as garlic mustard. Crushing the leaves to smell the distinct garlic odour is another way to help identify them.
Take a look at my Foraging Tips for Beginners to find out more about PlantNet;
I see that the flowers have clusters of four petalled white flowers and these flower in the plants second year. This is because garlic mustard has a biennial life cycle which means that it has a natural life cycle of two growing seasons. In the first year there is only leafy growth and then in the second year the plant flowers and dies.
If you are not a 100% sure when identifying a herb then please don’t use or eat it!
Other Names for Garlic Mustard (Alliaria Petiolata)
- Hedge garlic because of where it sometimes grows and due to it smelling like garlic.
- Jack-by-the-hedge because of its garlic-like-aroma and Jack being an old English name for the devil. Some say that the devil’s breath smells of garlic. Or maybe it has this name due to the ancient Turkish legend. The legend says that the onion was born when the devil was cast out of the Garden of Eden. Its said to sprout onions where Satan’s right foot touched the earth, while garlic sprang up under his left foot.
- Poor man’s mustard because in the past the more unfortunate used to eat the leaves with their bread.
- Sauce-alone because its often used in soups and sauces.
Garlic mustard is also found along hedgerows, verges and at the edge of woodland.
Eating the Leaves
Spring is a good time to pick the vibrant green and heart shaped leaves. They are not as palatable when picking once the weather warms up because then they develop a bitter taste.
The leaves can be used in an infusion, as salad leaves, and chopped to add to soups and casseroles. I imagine that they would be a good addition to a cheese or ham sandwich too if you like that sort of thing.
Eating a leaf there is a definite slight garlic taste and smell. This leaf makes a strong salad leaf and therefore can add a bit of bite to a boring salad.
You can also eat the root of garlic mustard which has been likened to taste like horseradish.
However remember that you need the landowners permission before any roots can be dug up. It is illegal to dig them up in the UK without permission.
Preparing the Leaves
I prepare the garlic mustard leaves by;
- Washing them in a colander and then leaving them to drain on the draining board.
- Putting some of the leaves into a sealed container in the fridge to use in salads.
- Drying the rest of the leaves and use for tea.
To dry the leaves I separate and place them onto kitchen roll. Next I cover them with further kitchen roll because then they do not get dusty. Finally I leave them a couple of weeks to dry until they are crispy and completely dry.
Once dried I store the leaves in a glass jar with an airtight lid and I place them in a cupboard away from direct sunlight.
Making a Garlic Mustard Infusion
I make an infusion by using fresh or dried leaves and stems. Furthermore both dried and fresh leaves can also be used in poultices (see below). Here is how I make garlic mustard tea;
- Measure 25g / 1oz fresh herb (17.5g/1/2oz dried herb) using an electronic scale for accuracy.
- Boil 300ml of bottled water.
- Add the dried or fresh herb to the boiled water.
- Cover and infuse for 10-15 minutes. I use a plate which works perfectly fine.
- Put any leftover infusion in the fridge and drink within 24 hours.
Review of the infusion
Its hard to describe the smell and taste of this one because I’ve never tasted anything like it before. However the taste was ok and the liquid is a beautiful pale green colour.
Personally I wouldn’t choose to drink this one out of choice and would prefer to use the leaves in salads, sandwiches, soups and casseroles. Don’t let this stop you from trying the garlic mustard tea yourselves because we all have different tastes.
In the past garlic mustard infusions were used to treat gangrene. Furthermore its properties may also support the body as an;
Using as a Poultice
Poultices therapeutic actions absorb rapidly into the skin and are easily changed and renewed.
Make a simple poultice by crushing, grating or chewing fresh leaves and stems. Next apply by wrapping them in muslin or cheesecloth because this keeps the herb in place. Use the poultice within 24 hours.
Suggested conditions that the garlic mustard poultice may ease include gout, neuralgia and rheumatism.
I would not consider growing this herb in my own garden because of its invasiveness.
Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. In fact I believe its best to try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.
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