March 22, 2012
This is a time of year I look forward to because a plant called garlic mustard (also known as ‘jack by the hedge’) is surfacing in hedges, verges and woodland edges.
It will grow prolifically now and for the next couple of months. As an introduction to trying wild food I can think of no better plant to get to know. It is such a versatile ingredient; having similarities in flavour to both mustard and garlic. It also has a hint of spring onion.
Think of all the dishes that benefit from the flavour of garlic or mustard or spring onion and you have an idea of just how many ways in which you can introduce garlic mustard into your cooking. As an added advantage it has a foolproof way of identifying it. Once identified using a photograph or guidebook you should crush the leaves in your fingers and smell it. If it smells of garlic – that will be it.
Here’s a good photo of garlic mustard in full bloom (April-June). The plant grows up to a metre tall and stands out in a verge as it is such a vibrant bright green compared to the other plants.
For the next couple of months I will be making breakfast potato cakes with garlic mustard – it’s without doubt one of my favourite things to eat. It’s simple and delicious. All you have to do is make enough potato mash for four patties, then grill four rashers of bacon and chop finely then fry some mushrooms and chop finely. Mix all this with plenty of finely chopped garlic mustard to taste and season with salt and pepper.
See my short video below to guide you through the recipe and give you further identifying features of garlic mustard.
Then take the patties and fry them in oil for a couple of minutes on either side and serve with eggs cooked to your liking.
As a more sophisticated dish for dinner you can substitute the bacon and mushrooms with small pieces of fried pigeon and black pudding, or indeed just about anything you think will go with garlic and mustard. You have plenty of time to get to know how to recognise this plant- at least 2 months.
Try cooking this and I can assure you that you will be smitten with it and will come to look forward to this time of year for the same reasons as me.