Thursday, 28 April 2011

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard - Alleria petiolata (also known as by the less prosaic moniker of Jack-By-The-Hedge, Hedge Garlic & the even more unimaginative than 'garlic mustard' name of Sauce Alone) is a common sight here in North Lincolnshire, and the pretty little flowers are everywhere in the ditches & hedgerows where I'm out walking in the mornings. I mostly know Garlic Mustard as a medicinal herb. It's a tonic & used in slow-healing skin disorders & bronchitis.

But guess what? It's edible! In fact, people have been harvesting this wild green for hundreds of years (though John Evelyn's book Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallats had little success trying to persuade people to eat it raw & lightly dressed with olive oil & sea salt back in 1699. It took 300 years & a couple of series of Jamie Oliver for that to start getting around). The whole plant is edible, from tiny white flowers to the long white taproot, which has a horseradish flavour, and is best eaten from March to June. It's a biennial, meaning that it flowers in its second year of growth. The young, first years growth are best for eating, as it has quite a strong, bitter flavour with a sweet garlic note. It's a little too intense a flavour to just throw into a salad, but makes an excellent addition to soups, and can be finely chopped & added to cream cheese or mayonnaise for a cracking potato salad, shredded & thrown into tabbouleh or pilau rice or chopped & added to frittatas or omelettes. It also makes good herbal vinegar. But the best use is pesto, as by some vegetable alchemy, the bitterness & rough edges seem to mellow out.

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Large handful of Mustard Garlic leaves, washed (there aren't many insects that will brave this pungent weed, but it's always worth checking)
2 tbs vegetarian parmesan (I use Bookhams, though any hard cheese will do)
4 tbs olive oil
pinch of salt
2 tbs pine nuts or walnuts (optional)

Put it all into a blender & whizz until you have a good consistency (some folks like chunky, some prefer a smooth puree), adding more oil if necessary. Or more cheese. No harm in more cheese. Now you have your pesto, you can do pretty much anything with it. Add to rice dishes, quiche filling, top a baked potato & stir into potato salads. Or just toss it into some pasta.

Okay. Having no interest in the Royal Wedding, I'm off to the allotment to plant More Bloody Potatoes.


mangocheeks said...

Garlic Mustard - I've seen some around here, but haven't picked any as I have been oh so consumed with the wild garlic. Liking your garlic mustard recipe.

Enjoy the sunshine dear friend, and I hope it lifts your spirits.

MorningAJ said...

Funny - I'm updating Auntie Anne's blog to avoid a certain ceremony.

I must try finding some of this herb to try.

littleblackfox said...

Hello Mangocheeks, it's lovely to see you here!
I've been really enjoying your wild garlic posts - but alas! No wild garlic here, so I've not been able to try any of the recipes.

Thank you, dear friend. I hope the sun is shining where you are too!

littleblackfox said...

Hi MorningAJ!
I had a good morning of potato planting (still not got them all out yet!), and harvested the last of our winter cabbages.
Garlic Mustard grows anywhere that's damp & shady, and you can't miss it. It can be a bit of an aquired taste. I find it a bit too intense after flowering, but MikeyFox can't get enough of it!

Captain Shagrat said...

Cor.... as the guy from masterchef says quite alot;-) Your pesto sounds pretty good to me especially as one who likes stuff for free. My food for free pocket book identified this nice nettle looking plant but i've not yet took the plunge and picked it for fodder. Like your ideas dude

littleblackfox said...

Hello Captain!
I love the Food for Free pocket book & carry it with me whenever I go out walking (as I'm still learning what grows locally), as I can't resist a bit of free food either!
I've heard the flower buds are nice stir-fried, but I haven't tried it.