28 March 2012

Tasty, tasty virtue

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata*) is an aggressive non-native herbaceous plant that was originally brought to the US as a culinary herb.   Now, sort of like Norwegian grey squirrels and ... well, my ancestors ... it's relatively attractive stuff that elbows out the natives and hogs resources.  

So garlic mustard is fair game for the urban/backyard conservationist.  Or forager.  I spent a day with the Friends of Sligo Creek a year or so ago pulling and bagging the stuff.  You have to bag it up, rather than let it compost in place because as soon as you turn your back on it, it drops seeds or sends out new shoots and is back in residence faster than a graduating senior with no solid job prospects.

The goal of the FOSC RIP ("Remove Invasive Plants") that day was to get as much of the garlic mustard out of the park as possible, so all we did was pull it out of the ground completely, stuff it in the bag, and move on.

It was afterwards that I found recipes using garlic mustard.**  Somehow knowing that I can turn an invasive plant into a yummy sauce to drizzle on pasta makes pulling weeds much more fun.  And yet, still so very virtuous.  I will save my beloved Maryland from this alien herb *and* adding a locally grown ingredient in my dinner!

There is garlic mustard growing on the hillside behind my apartment building.  So after I walk home tonight, I'll go collect enough to give me "3 cups Garlic Mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, and packed in a measuring cup."  I would collect it from Sligo Creek Park, except that I understand that one needs permission to do remove plants from the Park and I'd lose a fair bit of my sense of virtue if I get busted for poaching during the harvest.

And, just to save you that one one more click, here's the recipe I'll be using:

Garlic Mustard Pesto
  • 3 cups Garlic Mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, and packed in a measuring cup
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup Walnuts
  • 1 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano Cheese (or more Parmesan)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Combine Garlic Mustard leaves, garlic and walnuts in food processor and chop. Or divide recipe in half and use a blender. With motor running, add olive oil slowly. Shut off motor. Add cheeses, salt & pepper. Process briefly to combine.
Serve warm over pasta or spread on crackers as a appetizer. It also makes a great topping for baked fish.


* Okay, that's really for David.  He loves proper scientific names.

** Oh.  You'd like them, too? Is this what you're looking for?  I thought it might be ...

*** Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta, natch!  It's my favorite gluten-free pasta.

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