Many foragers, hikers, herbalists and conservationists consider it a travesty that instead of pulling and eating their edible weeds people throw chemical weed killer on them. It’s bad for the water table and our health. Dandelions that are so prevalent in our gardens now are fully edible raw and full of vitamin A. One cup of chopped dandelion is said to have 111% of your daily vitamin A intake, for example.
Invasive species like garlic mustard can also be eaten and the NYNJ Trail Conference held a class this past Sunday called From Pest to Pesto at Spillian, the inn and retreat center in Fleischmanns. Led by Heather Rolland, Will Soter and Leigh Melander, participants learned to identify the garlic mustard plant on the grounds of Spillian and turn it into pesto in the property’s commercial kitchen. Several garbage bags full of the invasive weed were cleared, before they flowered, from just an acre or two, which will allow other plants like wild flowers to flourish unimpeded by the voracious weed. Garlic mustard matures early and competes with some of the most special early spring natives in the Catskills. According to the National Park Service: “Garlic mustard has displaced vast areas occupied by native spring wildflowers. Chemicals in garlic mustard are toxic to the larvae of the native butterflies. Other chemicals have been found to affect mychorrhizal fungi associated with native trees, resulting in suppression of native tree seedling growth. In short, it spreads like wildfire but it tastes great is also packed with anti-oxidants, so we should eat it.
Garlic Mustard Pesto Recipe:
3 cups of garlic mustard leaves (pulled from the stems), chopped very finely
1 cup of oil
1 cup of a mix of Romano and Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of nuts (walnuts or pine nuts), finely chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped, raw garlic
1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt (or more if you like your pesto salty)
Chop the garlic mustard finely; use coarse sea salt to grind it down further. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve raw on crackers or use in sauces over pasta. Do not put the stems in the compost as the plant will proliferate in your compost. You can freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and pull out whatever you need for future recipes.