Friday, May 16, 2008

Eating Weeds? A Garlic Mustard Recipe

It's about that time when the weeds start growing faster than the garden plants. Weeding is a necessary chore in the garden, but why throw all your hard work away? Many people don't realize that some weeds are actually edible.

Garlic Mustard
This highly invasive weed was brought here from Europe as a culinary herb. The leaves have spicy somewhat bitter flavor with a hint of garlic. Not many animals eat it, and with it's numerous seeds, it spreads like mad. Garlic Mustard is a big problem for our woodlands; it shades out native wildflowers and quickly destroys the native habitat.

Now is a great time to remove these weeds before seeds form. As long as you're pulling them out, why not put the weed to use? Garlic Mustard leaves can be used as you would greens, or it can be used in pesto. I found this recipe and decided to try it. It turned out really good, and fresh!

Pasta with Garlic Mustard Pesto (modified from this Grist post)

1 clove garlic
2 cups (washed) garlic mustard leaves
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp pine nuts (optional)
3 T of grated Parmesan Cheese (not the powdered stuff in the can)
1/2 cup of olive oil
Use a food processor (or mortar and pestle) and grind the garlic, garlic mustard leaves, salt, cheese, and pine nuts until smooth. Add olive oil until you get the right texture.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup or so of the cooking water in the pan to thin the pesto. Toss pasta and pesto. Sprinkle some more Parmesan on top for garnish.

I added cooked garbanzo beans for some protein, but you could add chicken or shrimp, or eat as it is.

Other Weeds for the Dinner Table:
  • Purslane: I have tried this Vitamin C rich weed, and will have to share my Purslane Potato Salad later this year (it's at it's peak in July around here).
  • Dandelion: I keep meaning to pick some young leaves to throw in a salad, and I have yet to try the unopened flower buds and the tender spring roots as vegetables, but I hear they are pretty tasty. Maybe some good recipes will get me motivated?
Caution: Always be careful when eating wild foods, be sure you know what you are eating, and try only a little at first to make sure you are not allergic. Be sure you know they were not sprayed with any herbicides.

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