Garlic Mustard Pesto!
In spring of 2020, like lots of people, I got creative with food. I saw all the garlic mustard coming up around the edges of my yard, and instead of thinking "invasive weed," I thought, "food!" I had already tried cooking with this plant, using it like a green vegetable to sautee and had not been super happy with the results, but last year I found a garlic mustard pesto recipe and decided to give that a try. So, here's the deal. When you first make it, it has a very strong flavor. Very strong. So, I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first. But what I noticed is that the next day, after being in the fridge overnight, it tasted AWESOME. So just remember, it mellows with a bit of time. And believe it or not, garlic mustard pesto now rivals basil pesto in my book, and that is high compliments! In fact, I was more than a little sad as last spring turned to summer and the garlic mustard was no longer in primo condition for pesto making.
Now it is spring 2021 and I am ready for more! I based what I did on a recipe by Tama Matsuoka Wong (Wong, 2014).
You can see here that there is plenty of bright green garlic mustard to choose from. What I did was clip the flowering tops of a bunch of plants. This will help keep those plants from spreading seed (for a little while) and allow the plants to keep going so I will have plenty to choose from for my next batch of pesto.
The recipe calls for
11 cups of loosely packed garlic mustard
1 clove garlic
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (I would say if you want to make it without cheese to add more pine nuts)
1/4 cup pine nuts (I used walnuts)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 squeezes of lemon (I used 1/2 a capful of lemon juice)
The first step is to combine the garlic, parmesan, and nuts together in the blender. After that you can add the garlic mustard and oil. I found that I needed to do a rough cut of the garlic mustard before adding it to the blender to prevent my blender from getting stuck.
As with all pesto making, there is a fine art to knowing how much you can pack your blender and how slowly to go in order to maintain blending action. I find the best way is to add most of the oil and slowly add in the leafy matter, using the last of the oil near the end to keep things moving.
And here is what it looked like:
And now on my rice noodles - Yum!
Facts about garlic mustard
First of all, the botanical name is Alliaria petiolata and it is in the brassicaceae family, the same family as kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and mustard, of course! According to Tao Orion, the reason that garlic mustard becomes an invasive, taking over other native plants, is that the other native plants are not being cultivated and tended to. The idea of wilderness where the plants are totally left alone, is a Western point of view not held by indigenous people ("Garlic Mustard: A Gold Mine of Food and Medicine," 2020). Though according to Harvard Forest, garlic mustard exudes phytochemicals into the soil that inhibit the relationship between native plant roots and beneficial soil fungi ("Garlic Mustard Research," n.d.). As for me, my plan is to keep pulling garlic mustard out of my garden beds and most places in my yard, but to allow a patch to grow freely, while making sure not to let it go to seed.
Nutrition & medicinal uses
According to Katrina Blair, garlic mustard, like all mustards, is a circulatory stimulant for the blood. This action helps with movement of fluids in and out of tissues, and in turn supports the regeneration of tissues and the elimination of wastes. The plant is also high in vitamins A and C, chorophyll, trace minerals, and enzymes ("Garlic Mustard: A Gold Mine of Food and Medicine," 2020). Garlic mustard is listed as having many medicinal activities, but the one that I found most interesting is that the root can be harvested, chopped up, and heated in oil to make a chest rub for bronchitis ((M.Bieb.)Cavara.&Grande, n.d.). Since this is a mustard, that makes a lot of sense to me, that it would be warming and stimulating to help break up and move phlegm out of the lungs.
(M.Bieb.)Cavara.&Grande. (n.d.). Alliaria petiolata. Retrieved from Plants For A Future website: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Alliaria+petiolata
"Garlic mustard: a gold mine of food and medicine." (2020). Retrieved from Chelsea Green Publishing website: https://www.chelseagreen.com/2020/garlic-mustard/
"Garlic mustard research." (n.d.). Retrieved from Harvard Forest website: https://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/other-tags/garlic-mustard#:~:text=Garlic%20mustard%20exudes%20phytochemicals%20in,native%20plants'%20ability%20to%20thrive.
Wong, TM. (2014). Garlic mustard pesto. Retrieved from Food52 website: https://food52.com/recipes/28281-garlic-mustard-pesto