Garlic mustard, also known as Jack-by-the-hedge, is an unassuming plant with a powerful punch of garlic and mustard. This plant was introduced to the United States in the mid-1800’s, for food & medicine, and has since been creeping through the continent ever since. Garlic mustard is now considered an invasive species, a single plant can produce nearly 8.000 seeds and unfortunately the natural wildlife prefers not to nibble on it. Fortunately, however, this plant is delicious and safe for human consumption!
Garlic mustard is a biennial plant, growing rapidly in the spring (March-April) as a basal rosette the first year and bolting the second year to form a flowering stalk 12-36 inches in height. The leaves are round, scallop-edged, remaining dark green throughout the winter. When crushed, the aromatic leaves release a garlic and onion scent. The flowers are small, white, and numerous with four separate petals. The root smells of horseradish.
You will find garlic mustard in moist, shaded soil along roadsides, forests, river floodplains, disturbed areas, and edges of woods. You will not find them growing under conifers but rather hardwoods.
Garlic mustard is usually consumed raw and will wilt quickly after harvesting. Typically this pungent plant is best added to meals in smaller quantities such as a leafy green in your sandwich, mixed in with salads, eaten with fish, or stuffed in pork. The leaves can be cooked in soup, eaten with bread and butter, made into a sauce, or even pesto. Also, the seeds make for a very fiery mustard. The possibilities are endless and the plant is abundant, so go for it!
Flatbread Cracker Recipe
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons herbs (fresh or dried – I used poppy seeds and finely chopped fresh garlic mustard leaves)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
Pinch of black pepper
Preheat the over to 450 degrees F
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl or pulse in a food processor. Next, slowly add the water and oil, pulsing or mixing until the dough starts to form. Using your hands, press and form the dough into a single ball. Divide the single ball and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Roll the dough as thin as you can. Next time I’ll try and get it a bit thinner! This is where I added the whole garlic mustard leaves and pressed them into the dough with the rolling pin. If the leaves aren’t sticking to the dough, add a small amount of water and press them once again. Transfer the dough to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cut dough into desired shaped using a pizza cutter.
Pop them in the oven for 4-5 minutes. You’ll need to keep an eye on them as they tend to brown quickly! Once complete, turn the oven off and let the crackers sit in the oven for 1-2 hours to really dry them out and get them crispy. If you don’t have the time to wait 1-2 hours, you can leave them in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, rather than 4-5 minutes, and they’ll crisp up a bit more.
Next, you can make pesto! Replace nasturtium leaves for garlic mustard leaves, making a very strong garlic tasting pesto – Nasturtium Pesto
You could even add a combination of spring greens to your pesto – chickweed, young nettle leaves, garlic mustard leaves, violet leaf, or dandelion greens.