Garlic Mustard Pesto

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an open space nemesis — an aggressive invasive plant that forms dense colonies in our woods, along our trails, and even in our yards.

Will Rowlands at Connecticut Gardener explains, “garlic mustard is one of only a few invasives that’s capable of dominating the understory of deciduous forests and woodlands. In the process, it displaces a number of native spring wildflowers such as bloodroot, cutleaf toothwort, trilliums, and wild ginger.”

Many of us, on our walks and explorations, attempt to weed the woods — pulling garlic mustard up by its roots and leaving it to die a slow death. But these efforts are futile.

“Each plant can produce hundreds or even thousands of seeds, some of which may remain viable in the soil for five years,” says Rowlands. “It can take over disturbed areas and spreads quickly by dominating the competition for light, water and nutrients. A population can double in four years.”

An alternate solution? Eat it.

A quick Google search shows recipes for chimichurri sauce, vinaigrette, pesto, and even frittatas.

Intrigued, I set out to try it for myself using a recipe for Garlic Mustard Pesto from FOOD52 (click here), and I have to say, if you like pesto, this is definitely a recipe to try yourself!

Garlic Mustard Pesto
Prep time: 10 min

11 cups lightly packed garlic mustard leaves and tips, loosely chopped*
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 squeezes lemon juice

In a blender, grind the garlic, pine nuts and parmesan.
Add the garlic mustard.
While blending, pour in a steady stream of the olive oil for 1 minutes, or until smooth.
Add salt, sugar, lemon juice and pulse until mixed.

*This is approx. 2-3 bunches (see photo below). Prep time listed does not including foraging for or de-leafing the garlic mustard stalks.

The result was a light, tangy pesto, familiar in taste even without the presence of traditional basil. Greens, garlic, with hints of parmesan and lemon worked really well together, and made a nice topping for a baguette, pasta, or cheese ravioli.

I foraged my garlic mustard in May last year, a little too late in the season— try to catch it small, young, and paler green than shown in the photo. Maybe mid to late April.

As with anything, please take caution when foraging wild edibles. It’s best to have a general understand of what you’re foraging and where. Here is a helpful article in that regard: Safety and Precautions: Foraging 101 by Briana Wiles.

• You can read more about Garlic Mustard in this article by Will Rowlands on Connecticut Gardener. CLICK HERE

Submitted by Jen Payne

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