“When I’m out looking for morel mushrooms in April, I typically see garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). This biennial flowering plant is one of the earliest signs of spring green-up in eastern Nebraska, and unfortunately, it is invasive, threatening the biodiversity of woodland ecosystems.”
— Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley, Food for Hunters
What is garlic mustard?
Early European settlers brought garlic mustard to North America for food and medicine. Meeting favorable conditions in the New World, the species escaped from gardens, thrived, and spread uncontrollably. Today, garlic mustard has spread over practically all of the northeastern and midwestern United States and has made its way into Colorado, Utah, and as far west as Oregon. While common methods to control garlic mustard include burning, pulling, and spraying, you can also eat it. The whole plant is edible; its garlicky, peppery flavor makes it a fine substitute for arugula, mustard greens, or watercress. Although the plant is much maligned in the New World, garlic mustard holds a longstanding reputation in food history: it is one of the oldest herbs/spices used in Europe.
Harvesting & Storing Garlic Mustard
Gather garlic mustard in the spring when leaves are young and mild-tasting. Once warm weather arrives, leaves will taste increasingly bitter. Use garlic mustard raw or cooked. For long-term storage, mince leaves and stems and completely coat with olive oil. Pour into ice-cube trays, freeze, pop them out, and store in ziplock bags. Defrost as needed, and use in recipes that could benefit from its garlicky flavor. Garlic mustard makes great pesto.
2 pounds red potatoes
3–4 slices bacon
Approximately ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons wild garlic mustard leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus extra
Freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 hardboiled eggs, optional
1. Choose equal-size potatoes for even cooking. In a pot, bring 1½ inches of water to a boil. Set steamer basket inside and add potatoes. Cover and steam potatoes for 20 to 30 minutes, or until approaching tender but not mushy. Steam time will vary depending on potato size. Keep an eye on the water level.
2. While potatoes steam, lay bacon in a cold pan and turn heat to medium. Cook bacon until it is crispy and the fat is rendered. Set cooked bacon aside to drain on a paper towel. Pour bacon grease into a measuring cup and then add enough olive oil to equal 1/3 cup of total fat (approximately 1/4 cup).
3. Pour bacon grease and olive oil mixture into a jar with lid. Add chopped garlic mustard leaves, Dijon mustard, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and ¾ teaspoon of sea salt. Close lid and shake vigorously to emulsify the garlic mustard vinaigrette.
4. When potatoes are tender and cool enough to handle, but still warm, cut into desired size pieces and add to a mixing bowl. Pour in garlic mustard vinaigrette and gently toss with freshly cracked pepper. Let sit for a few minutes to allow potatoes to absorb flavors. Before serving, garnish with chopped parsley, crumbled bacon, and chopped hardboiled eggs. Season to taste, if needed. This German-style potato salad is best served warm.