Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is a wild edible green I am familiar with from the old days when I lived in New York and New Jersey, where it gets a lot of press as an “invasive” Eurasian weed. I had not encountered it here in Portland, Oregon, at all over the eight years I have made this place home — until now!
On my way to a nettle patch, I was excited to see it growing in the sandy soil beneath some cottonwood trees, next to the Sandy River at the dog park out there, known as Thousand Acres and Sandy River Delta.
I knew this was garlic mustard because the plant had alternate, heart-shaped leaves with scalloped edges and the tell-tale flower structure of a mustard family plant: four petals in a cross shape. When I picked a leaf and crushed it, it smelled like garlic mustard, too. I reason that this must have been a two-year-old stand of this plant because in the first year it stays low to the ground as a basal rosette. They grow up to 3.5 feet tall.
I had my scissors with me, since I was planning to get stinging nettle. I harvested the leaves and flowers by snipping them into a paper bag, leaving the stems behind. (The stems are edible, but when I tasted them, I found them unappealingly pungent.)
As soon as I got home, I turned the foraged garlic mustard into dinner. I sauteed it with stinging nettle greens, olive oil, garlic, and spaghetti squash, adding Himalayan pink salt and some cheese to enhance the flavor. And it was delicious! Good for me, too: A nutritional analysis of garlic mustard found that it is high in Vitamin C, carotenoids, minerals, and fiber.
Spring is such a great time to be a forager around here! After a winter spent eating kale, it’s really nice to get the fresh variety in my diet.
WILDERNESS FIRST AID training with disaster herbalist Sam Coffman, May 13-15! This is an amazing three-day camping intensive on absolutely beautiful private wilderness land. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m flying in Sam, an expert former Green Beret medic who now goes to third-world countries to treat people with herbs. And he’s coming all the way from San Antonio, Texas, to teach! Join me, get the details & register here!