Garlic Mustard - Alliaria petiolata

Garlic Mustard - Alliaria petiolata

Misunderstanding Breeds Hate

Garlic Mustard, that plant that is hated and despised by the masses. It has been called invasive, troublesome, a gardens worst enemy, an evil woodland weed, and an arch nemesis to all that is holy. And why is it evil? Because it is said to create monocultures, prevent the growth of other plants, drives away wildlife, and displaces and destroys native species by its very presence. It is interesting to note the existence of another species that does the exact same thing but on a much larger scale...

"A chaos theorist once remarked that it is relatively simple to find the fault in a design. It's harder to spot the assumptions that give rise to the fault. And it's hardest of all to identify the world-view that underlies it all."

And while we don’t want to downplay the large ecological impact that Garlic Mustard is having on our environments, we do want to put it into a different context by seeing it as a teacher. Where there is sickness, there are usually symptoms. Symptoms can be hated, they can be vilified, they can be fought against, or they can be learned from, teaching us about deeper maladies within. If we are to gain some understanding of what symptoms are pointing to, it would seem wise to gain some understanding of their underlying causes.

"The process of growth, which is the basic process of biology, is one in which lower orders are always being superseded by higher orders. The lower order can rarely figure out the nature of the higher order that is taking over. Therefore, the lower orders may see the higher orders as terrible threats, as total disaster, as the end of the world. "

Our own lawns and monocultured crops can also be teachers, for they too are symptoms that continually point to their underlying sickness. What is this current sickness? It is the underyling, almost imperceivable story of separation that is whispered into our ears at every turn. We can choose to hate Garlic Mustard, we can vilify it and fight against it, or we can approach it with a higher perspective, being willing to learn from it and allowing it to help us with our own sickness.

"Man is continually revolting against an effect without, while all the time he is nourishing and preserving its cause in his heart."

Garlic Mustard is a biennial flowering plant in the Mustard family that is able to thrive with minimal light exposure. This in turn makes the understory of hardwood forests a good place for it to set down its roots. It tends to crowd out other plants because it emerges long before other woodland plants, and on this side of the ocean it doesn’t seem to have many living things that enjoy eating it.

"To reject a part is to reject the whole; and to reject the whole is to reject itself... to cast out the foe is to cast out the friend."

But here lies an important point of imbalance, for if we could change our story, bringing balance to our own imbalanced part, perhaps then we may unknowingly contribute to greater balance within the whole. Imagine a world that has reawakened to what the ancients knew, that Garlic Mustard is not evil, but a very nutritious and healing vegetable, with large amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, copper, manganese and omega-3 fatty acids. Imagine the masses not going to the supermarket to get pricey healthy greens, but rather to their nearest patch of Garlic Mustard, free and fresh nutrition for most of the year.


The leaves, stems, flower pods, and seeds are all said to be edible. We mainly use the leaves and stems of young plants, but have also become especially fond of the tender flowering shoots. Chopped up they add a very nice addition to almost any dish.

Garlic Mustard tastes like the name, with a mild garlic and mustard taste and smell. Older leaves can be overpowering, but we continue to look for new ways to add this plant to our diets. We have not yet used the seeds, but have read that they have a long history of being used in many cultures.

Garlic Mustard is also said to have some useful medicinal properties, and even though we have just started learning about this much hated plant, we believe there are many secrets it has yet to give up.


We chop up the leaves and stems and add them to sauces, salads, stir-fry, and sandwiches. A great way to use Garlic Mustard is in a pesto sauce, simply replacing the basil with garlic mustard. Below is a good recipes for this:

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Add two cups of chopped garlic mustard leaves, with 2 cloves of garlic, 2 cups of Parmesan, 1/2 cup of olive oil, some lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix everything in a food processor and your done. Just add it to some pasta or even lentils.