Another spring and a new crop of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is setting up camp for the season. We found a few small plants in the street garden cleanup last week and several at the community garden, many that were already much larger and lusher than any of the other cold hardy perennials growing there. And all of that despite the fact that this is my third year diligently removing every plant I find!
Now is the time to remove this highly invasive plant while it is still small and easy to pull. We learned the hard way last year that by May the roots are already enormous and deeply set. I took the above photo of an entire plant just a few days ago and the roots were already substantial.
Here’s what the plant looks like right now. In the early stages it looks more like a common violet, but the distinctive garlic smell is unmistakable. Here are some photos of later stage plants for identification.
When removing the plant, be sure to pull up as much of the root system as possible. Pull when the soil is moist and loose and use a weeding tool if you have to. Destroy the plant, roots and all — do not put it into the compost bin! Or better yet, eat it. As I’ve mentioned before, that distinctive garlicy smell and flavor lends itself to all kinds of uses.
My favorite way to eat it is lightly sautÃƒÂ©ed with some butter; however, we have tried making it into pesto by simply whizzing the leaves up in a food processor with a splash of olive oil and salt, and grating the roots into a horseradish substitute. The pesto is a bit bitter raw, I prefer it cooked. I’m thinking of using this year’s harvest to make “garlicy” mashed potatoes. The fake horseradish was okay, but since it took us several hours work washing and grating thin roots, I wouldn’t recommend it.