Isn’t this a pretty plant? It’s called Garlic Mustard and it grows all over the place – especially where the ground has been disturbed – and especially where our native wildflowers such as Toothwort would like to grow. Garlic Mustard is non-native and aggressively invasive. When it invades an area, it takes over quickly and outcompetes the native flowers for sunlight, water, soil, and nutrients.
There are several species of Toothwort that are native. In the woods where I have been walking this spring, it seems that the Cut-leaved variety is blooming first, followed by another species with a more solid-looking leaf.
Also in the mustard family, these spring wildflowers provide food for the larva of the West Virginia White Butterfly. My friend Tom could probably tell you a lot more about these critters than I! In fact, this is his picture. Click on it – then browse his other photos. Also check out his blog at http://monarchbfly.com/.
If you want to know all the details of how Garlic Mustard got here, what the hazards are, how to control it, here’s a much better account of all that than I could possibly summarize here:
Anyway… all of this is background in preparation for sharing a recipe. You see, nature centers all over the country are in a quandry over what to do about this pest. Here at Audubon, we have attempted to host garlic mustard pulls to eradicate the plant, especially from our Bentley Sanctuary – with mixed success. I have said for years, “You must be able to cook with it…” but I never followed through with that idea… Well, the Kalamazoo Nature Center did. You can order a publication from them called Garlic Mustard: From Pest to Pesto. So we did. And last Friday, I made the “Spring Pesto” recipe. (It’ll never be as good as basil pesto… but it was mighty tasty.) If you decide to try this recipe, be sure to pull your weeds from a place where herbicides are not used!
3 cups of Garlic Mustard leaves and stems
1 cup of chives
2 tsp of chopped garlic mustard root
1/2 cup pine nuts (or cashews or walnuts)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Put it all in the food processor and make a paste out of it. Use as you would any pesto – Toss with noodles and some romano cheese. Spread it on a flat bread, top with fresh tomatoes sliced very thin and cheese, then broil until the cheese is browned. Mix it into sour cream or plain yogurt to make a great dip.