My Dirt Time The Adventures of Tom Sciacca

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Garlic Mustard

My Dirt Time I finally got this wild edible plant down this year too. I have seen this plant every year at Marty's edible plant survival school so far and I finally got it down. I think what happens is that when I study edible plants for any period of time, I concentrate on a certain number and when I get overwhelmed I put the rest off. Like I said earlier maybe when I get to be a 120 years old like Marty Simon, Iíll know a few dozen wild edible plants. Of course, Iím joking. I know quite a few plants now and am always adding more to my memory. But the point is that there are hundreds of thousands of plants in the United States and I think about 1/3 are edible. When I say edible and not edible, that is one thing. There are also poisonous and then deadly plants too. Very, very few fall in that category. An edible plant isnít necessarily good to eat. Itís just edible and probably wonít get you sick. A non edible plant doesnít necessarily mean that it is deadly poisonous. It just might give you a stomach ache. The bottom line is that wild edible plants is a study and one of many survival skills that can be fun and isnít as dangerous or mysterious and most people think. On the other hand, I refer to foraging for wild edibles with my kids, but they are all clear that they donít eat anything without me. Even my 5 year old will see Wood Sorrel for example and ask me before he picks it. While he is a pretty wild little guy, he gets the point. Again, here comes the disclaimer for those who lack common sense, this is all for educational and entertainment purposes only, do your own research. I am not an expert and wonít be until I am an old man if I ever am. I am still a student and hope to always be.

Back to garlic Mustard. I like what Wildman Steve Brill says about it too.

ďThis despised invasive wild edible plant is actually one of the best and most nutritious common wild foods.

Garlic mustard, also called Jack-by-the-hedge and sauce-alone, defends itself from insects by smelling like garlic, which insects don't like. Of course, if a swarm of Italian insects finds it, the plant soon becomes extinct. This erect European herb of open woodlands and disturbed soil has dark green, heart-shaped, scallop-edged, deeply veined, long-stalked basal leaves that grow up to 5" across.

The stalked stem leaves are smaller and more triangular. The garlic odor is apparent when you crush a leaf.

The pungent, mildly bitter, garlic-flavored basal leaves are good from late fall to early spring. They taste great to some people, while others find them too bitter unless cooked, or mixed with milder vegetables.

Many wild edible plants become more bitter as they mature. But garlic mustardís arrowhead-shaped stem leaves are more pungent and less bitter in the spring, than the basal leaves were in the cold. They even carry overtones of sweetness. Theyíre easy to strip off, so you can collect bagfuls in short order, along with the terminal clusters of tiny, four-petaled, tasty, white flowers.

Garlic mustard is great raw in salads, mixed with more mild greens. It's also good steamed, simmered, or sautťed. In Europe, they use it in sauces. Cook no longer than five minutes, or the leaves will become mushy.

Sometimes you'll find garlic mustard with exceptionally large leaves. These may have large, whitish, fleshy taproots, which taste like horseradish. They're good from late fall to early spring, before the flower stalks appear. Use them like horseradish, grated into vinegar, as a condiment. I love chopping these roots into thin slices, and handing them out to children during classroom visits. Overwhelmed by the pungency, chaos reigns as the kids rush to the water fountain. Then they all want seconds."

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