Windsor

Eating garlic mustard: A tasty way to fight invasive plants

Garlic mustard is an invasive plant species found across Windsor-Essex. It also happens to be very tasty.

Windsor Morning's Jonathan Pinto enlists in the fight against invasive species by eating them

A few weeks ago, I received a tweet from Alex Denonville at the Essex Region Conservation Authority.

A garlic mustard pull is an annual event where volunteers go through a conservation area and pull out and dispose of a plant called garlic mustard. 

Originally brought to North America by European settlers, garlic mustard is an invasive plant species that the provincial government calls "one of Ontario's most aggressive forest invaders." It's a tall, thin leafy plant with a small white flower on top.

It might be an invasive species, but it also sounded like it could be really tasty. I really wanted to try this plant. So Alex asked me to meet him and a few of his coworkers at the McAuliffe Woods Conservation Area in Tecumseh.

What does garlic mustard taste like?

When you rip one of the leaves, it totally smells like garlic, but it's a lot milder when you eat it. There's a slight garlic taste, but it's more like a mild, bitter green. 

I didn't just eat a garlic mustard leaf straight off the plant. Alex actually prepared a few dishes with it. In the middle of woods, ERCA had set up a picnic table under a canopy.

On the table was a bowl of garlic mustard pesto. Basically, it was a classic Italian pesto with olive oil, parmesan, nuts and garlic. But instead of fresh basil, Alex used garlic mustard leaves. Spread on crackers, it was really delicious.​

The second dish was a warm potato salad prepared on site, using a camp stove. This recipe was also really simple, with roasted potatoes, caramelised onions, bacon and red wine vinegar.

After it was all warmed up, he added a bunch of hand torn mustard green leaves and tossed it all together. It added a garlicky, bitter kick to an already delicious salad. 

Where can I get garlic mustard?

Since it's an invasive plant, garlic mustard is not something the conservation authority wants you to grow in your garden. You'll have to forage for it yourself.

This Sunday, May 17 there's a garlic mustard pull happening at Camp Cedarwin Scout Camp from 1-4 p.m. It's on County Road 20, just west of the Arner Townline.

If you help out, you can take as much of it home as you want.


Recipes

Garlic Mustard Pesto

  • 3 cups garlic mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, and packed in a measuring cup
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine garlic mustard leaves, garlic and walnuts in food processor and chop. Or divide recipe in half and use a blender. With motor running, add olive oil slowly. Shut off motor. Add cheeses, salt & pepper. Process briefly to combine.

Warm Potato Salad with Wilted Garlic Mustard Greens

  • 2 red bliss potatoes
  • ½ cup caramelized onions
  • ¼ cup rendered bacon
  • ½ cup garlic mustard greens
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Quarter potatoes, and toss in canola oil. Roast for about 30 minutes. In a sauté pan, heat bacon. Add onions and potatoes, and add salt and pepper to taste. Deglaze with vinegar, and toss in garlic mustard. Serve warm.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

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