Garlic Mustard – A Foraging Guide to Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses

Garlic Mustard is a common wild herb in Britain and Ireland. Its leaves exude a garlicky smell when bruised or chopped, although the plant is unrelated to garlic.

Scientific Name

Alliaria petiolata

Family

Brassicaceae

Botanical Description

Garlic mustard has straight, stems (hairy at the base) with large green and toothy leaves, sometimes described as heart-shaped. The flowers are small and white with cross-shaped petals.

Status

Biennial. Native.

Habitat

Deciduous woodland, cultivated land, hedgerows, wasteland.

Parts Used For Food

Leaf, stems, flowers, seeds, root.

Harvest Time

March, April, July, August, September.

Food Uses

The release of a garlic smell and taste when the leaves are crushed led to the use of garlic mustard as an alternative to true garlic. Thus it can be said to have the same uses as garlic in food preparation and cooking. The wild herb also makes an excellent savoury salad green, sauce and potherb. Seeds used as a pepper substitute. The root has wasabi notes, and the flavour ranges from ‘very hot’ to ‘sweet with mild heat’ depending on location and region.

Nutritional Profile

As a member of the mustard family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard and watercress, garlic mustard could be among those vegetables which if eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet might help to prevent cancer.

It shares cancer-preventing chemicals isothiocyanates, from the mustard family, and allyl sulfides, from the garlic family.

Garlic Mustard Recipes

Herbal Medicine Uses of Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard has been used as an antiseptic herb for treating leg ulcers, bruises and sores, coughs and colds, clearing a stuffy head, to encourage sweating and even as a cure for colic and kidney stones.

In Somerset, England, the fresh green leaves were rubbed on feet to relieve the cramp.

Other Uses

A yellow dye might also be obtained from the whole plant.

Cautions

Garlic mustard is apparently “palatable to livestock”, which suggests another means to manage its spread on the borders of fields and woodlands. An unfortunate side effect of this, however, is that it might lend a disagreeable flavour to cows milk and an unpleasant taste to poultry meat.

Further Reading

References

  1. Duke, J. A. (2001) Handbook of Edible Weeds. Herbal reference library. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  2. Gerard, J. (1994) Gerard’s Herbal: The History of Plants. Nachdruck. Marcus Woodward (ed.). London: Senate, an imprint of Studio Editions Ltd.
  3. Hatfield, G. (2008) Hatfield’s Herbal: The Secret History of British Plants. London: Penguin.
  4. Mac Coitir, N. & Langrishe, G. (2015) Ireland’s Wild Plants: Myths, Legends and Folklore.
  5. Quattrocchi, U. (2012) World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC.

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  1. Thank you for sharing I am new to the world of herbs. I am starting a notebook of all the herbs I studying . I am currently taking a immersion course with Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.

    Reply
  2. I have just discovered this in the woodland area of our park. Chopped leaves and flowers and added to rice at the end of cooking gave the rice a mild garlic flavour.

    I have planted some next to my ramson but have since read that it is an invasive plant in the US, so is it in advisable to have in a garden in London or is it an addition to a desirable wild flower collection.

    Reply
  3. Hello

    I’ve just made some garlic mustard and nettle pesto! It tastes pretty good, can’t wait to try it on some pasta later.

    As well as the leaves and stem, I also collected the roots to try to make a horseradish style sauce.. however all the roots I collected are really woody and have no strong taste.

    Is there a particular time to pick the roots when they are more likely to be soft and have stronger flavour?

    Thanks
    Paul

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  4. Leaves nice added to drained pasta, with some pesto. Quite bitter, kids not taken with it but fine for me! Stalks were super tough and chewy though – the softer top end might have been alright but I chopped all up together so blended them after short boil and used the sieved juice in the sauce. Not sure what they brought to the taste party… It is not that prolific here, so careful not to take too much as important food for the Orange-tip Butterfly apparently.

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  5. At this point, where I am, the second year plants are just starting to open their white flowers on some plants while others are still in bud. I have used upper leaves and upper stem tips. Are lower leaves useable or too bitter? I ahve been cooking leaves before eating and blanching leaves before making pesto.

    Reply

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