Garlic Mustard: Tasty Backyard Invader


Photo: Caleb Simmons,

This spring, one of the first invasive plants that is up and blooming is Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata. This biennial plant is native to Europe and has a long history of culinary and medicinal use.   As the name suggests, the leafy greens have a zesty flavor with hints of both garlic and mustard. Recipes for a variety of dishes are available online. Garlic mustard leaves can be sautéed like spinach, eaten raw in a salad, or even as an ingredient in a cocktail! Some chefs have even experimented with using the taproot as well, for a stronger flavor.  My favorite dish is a pesto, where the basil can be replaced with garlic mustard. There are many variations to the recipe, but here is one from Edible Wild Food:

Garlic Mustard Pesto Recipe


3 tbsp. garlic mustard roots
1 cup garlic mustard leaves
3/4 cups fresh parsley
1 cup fresh basil
4 garlic cloves
1 ½ cups of low-sodium olives
2 cups of walnuts or pine nuts
1/2 cup mellow miso
1 ¼ cups olive oil or as needed


Finely chop the garlic mustard roots and garlic cloves in a food processor or by hand. Then add in finely chopped parsley, garlic mustard leaves and basil.

Add finely chopped nuts to the mixture. Then add the olive oil and miso and process until you’ve created a coarse paste.

You may want to use less olive oil than what this recipe calls for – add in a little at a time until you have the consistency you like.

So, take a look and see if you have any of these tasty invaders in your backyard.  Garlic mustard is easy to hand pull and you can identify it by the small white flower and slight smell of garlic. Besides just getting an ingredient for dinner, you will also be protecting natural areas from the thousands of seeds that can be created by each garlic mustard plant. It’s time to get cooking!