|Garlic Mustard at a glance (in bloom)|
Garlic mustard is an invasive culinary herb introduced by Italian immigrants in the last century. It's relatively easy to spot with its little white flowers, and a straight forward identification come from its distinct smell. If you rub the leaves, they give off a garlic odor and have a mild garlic flavor, as well. The problem with garlic mustard is that each plant produces hundreds of seeds and the plant has taken over in lots of areas in the U.S. Foraging for garlic mustard gives kids the chance to use up some energy ripping the plants out of the ground, roots and all. A few years ago, National Geographic Kids ran an article on invasive plants and recommended to children not only pulling up all the plants that they can see, but also making pesto from it. When you do pick garlic mustard, definitely try to grab the whole plant. They aren't deeply rooted, so they'll come up easily. Picking them before they seed is, of course, the best thing for the environment, even in the face of an endless battle.
|Garlic mustard flower and leaf up close|
To make pesto from the garlic mustard, have the kids pluck the leaves off and mince them in a food processor. Like pesto made from basil, it will take a lot of garlic mustard leaves to make any significant amount of pesto base. But, hey, in this case, you'll find plants by the hundreds in a wide array of locations. To the minced herb, add olive oil, a little salt, and minced pine nuts or walnuts. I don't add Parmesan until I use the pesto, but some people add grated Parmesan. You can then freeze the pesto in ice cube trays for individual use later, or use it fresh. The flavor is definitely different from basil pesto, but it's pretty good.
This pdf I found online is so perfect for foraging with kids, I had to update this post to include it directly. It contains a range of activities about garlic mustard and some other invasive plants, as well as recipes for garlic mustard. I learned that it is used also for cleansing wounds, and can be used as a dye. It is a substitute for mustard greens. Because it is in flower now, the leaves are going to be bitter if you eat them raw, but planning for the next year... ! check this out:
|Honeysuckle in bloom with dew|
Honeysuckle vines are also blooming right now and their scent fills the air around our woods. I think the honeydew vines we have might well be Japanese honeydew, another invasive plant, but I haven't tried hard to identify them. From the little I've read of non-native honeydew, they are sweet smelling and showy, which describes the plants that abound in my woods to a "T". Their flowers can be eaten straight from the vine for a sweet honey taste. But kids love learning the secret way to get a drop of nectar from the flower. You pluck the entire bloom from the plant, then carefully pinch down at the back end and pull the "string" out through the back of the flower. Unless wildlife has already snatched it, a drop of sweet nectar will be drawn out at the very end. It takes a little practice, but it's exciting to get it right and have this honey-tasting drop come out of the flower like magic. It you grow impatient, you can always just eat the whole thing, but the honey dew by itself is super special.
|You can't see the nectar in this photo - but it is there near the green tip|
This entry is part of Real Food Wednesday where you can find a wide range of blog posts each week associated with Real Food. I am also participating this week for the first time with the Hearth and Soul blog hop, one that I've been reading for months but haven't joined.... it's all about food that's good for the soul, and I find my connect into it off of another great blog, A Moderate Life which is fun to read and includes great Mark Bittman challenges.