Garlic Mustard – Wildly invasive, wildly nutritious!

Shawn Severance (Washtenaw County Parks Natural Area Preservation Program) shares today’s piece with us after their May 3rd event, “Garlic Mustard: Hike to Harvest.”

2015-05-03 15.29.06Spring is in the air! The birds are singing, the bees are buzzing, and Garlic Mustard is in the forest…. everywhere! Garlic mustard is wildly invasive AND a nutrition-packed powerhouse. It was originally brought to North America by settlers as a potherb. Because it is green all winter, it was an excellent source of vitamins and minerals in the season of scarcity. According to John Kallas Ph.D, ( a wild food expert and nutritionist, garlic mustard has the highest levels of nutrients of any leafy green ever analyzed. It’s high in vitamin A, beta carotene, zinc, manganese and fiber.

Today, with growing interest in local and wild foods, Garlic Mustard is a wild edible that you can harvest as much as you like. When cooking with Garlic Mustard, treat it like Basil, Oregano or any other pungent, spicy herb. Its strong bold flavor pairs well with crème, butter, cheese and nuts. The tastiest part of the plant is the light green tips and flowers. Often, the dark green bottom leaves can be bitter.

Garlic has a long history as an edible plant first in Europe and now here in North America…and it contains detectable levels of cyanide!? It turns out that cyanide in food is more common than you might think. Almonds, spinach, broccoli, lima beans, soy and cassava all contain low levels of naturally occurring cyanide. Wild plants are superfoods, and often concentrate nutrients and toxins at higher rates than domestic plants. As we reconnect with traditional wild foods, it’s important to remember traditional food preparation techniques. Lima beans are cooked before eating and Cassava is chopped, soaked rinsed and cooked. Cyanide easily dissolves in water and is destroyed by heat so chopping, rinsing and cooking, and all greatly reduce or eliminate it.

For more information:


Potato Leek Soup with Garlic Mustard (adapted from Once Upon a Chef)

3 T butter
3 T olive oil
4 Leeks
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
7 cups broth or water
bay leaves
generous pinch of thyme
salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
3-4 cups of garlic mustard leaves, flowers and tips, chopped
Put leeks and potatoes in a large soup pot, drizzle with olive oil and butter. Add some salt and sauté until soft and wilted, about 10 minutes.

Add stock, bay leaves, thyme and simmer 15 minutes until potatoes are soft.
Add garlic mustard leaves and cook a few minutes more. Remove bay leaves, blend with immersion blender and add the heavy crème.

Kale and Citrus Salad with Garlic Mustard Tips (inspired by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman Cooks)


1 bunch Kale, leaves torn off the stalks
1 whole Jalapeno, seeded and sliced very thin
3 whole Tangerines Or Clementines (or 1 Orange), peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups of cooked Farro
2 cups of Garlic Mustard flowers and tips
1/4 cup Orange Juice
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, pressed Or grated
1 teaspoon Sugar
Salt To Taste
Black Pepper To Taste
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Sour Cream Or Plain Greek Yogurt

Preparation Instructions:

Grab bunches of the kale leaves and use a sharp knife to thinly slice them. Keep going until you have a big pile of finely shredded kale.
To make the dressing, combine the orange juice, olive oil, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a small mason jar. Shake vigorously until all combined, then add the sour cream or yogurt and shake again until it’s nice and creamy.
Toss the kale in half the dressing for a minute or so, then add the jalapeno slices and citrus pieces. Toss again until combined. Add a little more dressing if it needs it (extra dressing can be stored in the fridge and used for any salad.)
At the last minute, add the farro to the salad.

Garlic Mustard Pesto (adapted from Tama Matsuoka Wong)

11 cups lightly packed garlic mustard leaves and tips, loosely chopped, blanched and drained
1/4 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 squeezes lemon juice

In a blender or food processer, grind the garlic, pine nuts and parmesan. Add the garlic mustard leaves.
While blending, pour in a steady stream of the olive oil for 1 minutes, or until smooth. Add salt and lemon juice and pulse until mixed.

Thank you for sharing, Shawn! Additionally, if any readers living in or near Washtenaw County (MI) and are interested in wild edibles, they may want to check out Briarpatch Outdoors. Many members of this Meetup group joined for the event. Learn more about them at:

Photos from Shawn Severance

   2015-05-03 13.44.15   2015-05-03 13.57.34


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