Botanical Name: Alliara petiolata
Other Common Names: Garlic Mustard
Brief Description and Notes: Refer to our article on invasivorism for more information on the benefits of consuming invasive plants. This is a very prolific species, and thankfully it’s also pretty tasty and healthy. The most ecologically helpful time to harvest is in very early spring before the plants have gone to seed. No need to worry about pulling up the whole plant by the root–that is encouraged in this case, since the plant is so aggressive and out-competes other beneficial plants. If you wander through a patch of garlic mustard, make sure no seeds cling to your clothes when you leave.
The plant is identified by it’s scalloped leaves and especially the garlic-y- scent released when crushed. First year plants stay close to the ground while second year plants shoot up and have small white flowers. Second year leaves may have more of a triangular shape.
Where To Look For It: Moist and shady hardwood forests, especially in clearings or openings, edges of roads and woods, disturbed areas.
Ecological Value & Roles: Currently labeled as invasive. Most native wildlife in Eastern North America do not eat this plant; perhaps deer if nothing else is available. There is some research showing that the presence of this plant can actually harm various pollinators’ life cycles.
Edibility and Other Human Use: Use the raw leaves in salad, sandwiches, or blend large amounts into a wild pesto. Use as a pot herb, for sauces, or turn the seeds into mustard.
Wild Wisdom, Awbury Arboretum, 2020