Thursday, April 26, 2012

the invasion of the garlic mustard

The week before we left for Chicago, we headed out on a perfect spring day to ogle the clouds and find some garlic mustard to pick.  Garlic mustard is an invasive plant here, thriving in place of the native plants.  Deer don't like the taste of the garlic mustard, so they tend to compound the problem by nibbling at the native plants that are here, making more room for the garlic mustard to spread.  This plant is skilled in creating the perfect growing environment for itself - it is not eaten by any native insects (they don't like the smell or taste either), and it crowds out tree saplings as well, cutting down on the regeneration of forests, and produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants and trees.  Whew! That's some tenacious plant.  There is an effort locally to get rid of this plant, and we thought we could work it into one of our hikes...what kids don't like to rip plants out of the ground?? Plus, it is reportedly tasty...say no more, we're there.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is of the mustard family, and, well, it smells like garlic! Which is why the deer stay away and we made it into pesto.

The place we found to plunk ourselves down, out of the wind, to read, eat lunch, and draw was not near the patches of garlic mustard, so the drawings we made were of something that looks related - similar 4-petaled flowers and leaf arrangement.  We think it's winter cress.

When we remember to take drawing materials, we have a great time illustrating our discoveries, but while I fantasize gorgeously detailed nature journals, the truth is that we are more often content to make a few notes and then get back to the exploring (and rolling...).

Ani's journal entry, above and below

I like the "magnified" view of the flower, at left

Eliza's details
We're back to the chillier rain of a normal spring this week, with a quick break yesterday during which we got out to the bike path. 

Along the way we saw large stands of garlic mustard, and when the girls realized that they were growing right where we look every spring for jewelweed's new growth, they got on board for some more pulling. This time we brought it home and made up a pesto which was delicious, if a tad bitter.  I think as with most spring greens, if you catch them before they flower, they're a little tastier (and maybe more nutritious?).  Garlic Mustard is reportedly high in vitamins A and C and was used by the colonists (who grew it in their gardens) to treat stomach ulcers.

Ack! Crowding out the jewelweed
The pesto we made was simple: ~3 cups of garlic mustard leaves and a few flowers, ~1 cup pumpkin seeds, ~1 cup olive oil (ok, so I was in a hurry and didn't reeeeally measure anything, but it's pesto! Just keep trying till you get it tasting the way you like it!), salt, and a squeeze of lemon.  I thought it was tasty. Dan thought it tasted like almonds (which I took by his eating it, was not a bad thing, just a little strange), and Eliza politely informed me that she was sorry, but it was not to her liking. Ani just grunted; pesto without cheese is hardly worth making, in her opinion.  Dandelion pesto's on the list (though we're a little late on that this spring - we'll have to search the shady spots I guess), and maybe that will go over a little better?  I realize this is not a glowing endorsement, but I love that we made something I thought was yummy from a weed that is abundant and free for the picking!!

If you are in our area, there are still several "official" pulls taking place on the next two weekends. Check here, at the Rural Action website, for more details.  If you decide to take on some pulling of your own, don't forget to carry out your pulled plants in a trash bag - even pulled, if left to lie at the side of the path it will regenerate. Amazing, right?  That's why it's everywhere!!

My easter baskets this year - garlic mustard from the back yard!


alissa said...

here is me trying to comment again!

Dan said...

hey!! it worked!!! thanks for trying *again*!!!

Debbie said...

Oh darn it all, garlic mustard. It's everywhere here too. SO invasive. It's all in our backyard and I pull it non-stop in the early spring...but what do you do when your neighbours just let it go. ARG. Not to mention our woodlands. But your post did make me wonder whether or not we have official pull days. I'd be all over that.