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Garlic mustard: It's bad, but good for you

Frank Kourt/The Food Dude

(Published April 03, 2007, 3:15 p.m.)

Every now and then, we make an ecological mistake.

Take, for example, the problem of purple loosestrife. It was supposed to be a pretty ornamental plant imported from Europe.

Unfortunately, it's an invasive plant and it got out of control and is now threatening native plants all over the place.

Apparently garlic mustard, brought to the United States by early European settlers as a flavoring for soups and stews, is causing a similar problem, and the Geneva Township Park Commission is declaring war on the plant in a unique and fun way.

They want us to not only destroy the beast, but to eat it.

Thus was born the Duck Lake Nature Trail Garlic Mustard Fest, which is celebrating its second anniversary on April 14.

Sponsored by the Geneva Township Park Commission, the event is scheduled for 9 -11 a.m. at the east end of the Duck Lake Nature Trail, located off Highway H in the Edgewood Hills subdivision. The group plans to pass out its "Please Eat The Weeds" cookbook, along with garlic mustard scallion cakes, garlic mustard salsa and garlic mustard Mexicali corn bread.

In addition, this year's event will feature a cash prize for the best original garlic mustard recipe. All you need to do is show up at the event with a sample of your recipe and written directions for making it. Each participant will have their name and recipe included in a future edition of the "Please Eat The Weeds" cookbook, to be distributed at future Garlic Mustard Fests.

According to a previous cookbook, garlic mustard can be used to create salads, omelets or "perfectly cooked pastas infused with invasive plant pesto." The leaves, flower and roots are edible.

Should you decide to participate in the eradication of the evil weed, the commission recommends taking out the entire plant, roots and all, early in the season before it has a chance to flower. Be careful not to drop any on the ground, since that will re-infect the area or spread the pest to a new area.

Described as "a severely invasive alien plant," that can take over an area and destroy the natural habitat, the commission suggests that we should all feel free to pull up and eat as much of the evil weed as we can.

This is an interesting approach to the problem, and while it may not be up there with reversing the global warming problem, it's something we can all do to restore the natural environment.

The following are a few recipes from last year's "Please Eat the Weeds" cookbook.

 

Please, eat the weeds!

 

Garlic Mustard Scallion Cakes

1 cup garlic mustard, chopped

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 package flour tortillas

2 eggs

2 tsp. sesame seed oil

Oil for frying

Mix scallions and garlic mustard. Beat together eggs and sesame oil. Brush one side of a tortilla with egg mixture. Sprinkle on scallion/garlic mustard mixture. Brush egg on another tortilla, then put on top of first tortilla with egg side down. Repeat until all tortillas are used. Stack and separate cakes with wax paper. Cover with plate and weigh down with cans to seal tortilla (about 15 minutes). Heat oil in heavy pan. Brown the cakes on both sides (approx. 2 minutes total.) Drain on paper towel. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

Garlic Mustard Salsa

2 cups, finely chopped tomatoes

1 cup finely chopped green pepper

1⁄2 cup finely chopped onion

1-2 jalapenos, seeded and minced

1 small green chili pepper, seeded and minced

1 T olive oil

1 T garlic mustard, or to taste

Salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill. For more intense flavor, chop garlic mustard ahead of time and let stand for several hours or overnight.

 

Garlic Mexicali Corn Bread

Golden Cornbread Mix

2 cups buttermilk

1⁄2 cup chopped garlic mustard leaves

1⁄2 cup frozen Mexican vegetables

Measure out 1⁄4 batch of Golden Cornbread. Add buttermilk, garlic, mustard and vegetables. Mix lightly. Bake in greased bread pan in a 450 pre-heated oven 20-30 minutes until bread springs back.

 

Garlic Mustard Pesto I

3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 T pine nuts or walnut pieces

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup (about 1 oz.) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 cups garlic mustard leaves or 2 cups garlic mustard leaves with 2 cups basil leaves

 

Place all ingredients except garlic mustard in a food processor. Blend until smooth, then add the garlic mustard and/or basil a handful at a time, blending until all greens are incorporated and the pesto is smooth. Makes about one cup.

Note: if freezing, omit the cheese and add in when ready to use the pesto

 

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