Sunday, April 25, 2010

Garlic Mustard - A weed, not a condiment

First year plant - Garlic Mustard

Second year plant - Garlic Mustard

The leaves of garlic mustard give off a distinctive odor of garlic, and the plant was probably introduced from Europe (where it is a native) by early settlers who were looking for a good source of salad greens. Garlic mustard is a cool-season plant and grows best in moderate to deep shade. It gets an early start in the spring, and makes so much shade that native wildflowers cannot thrive. The first victims of garlic mustard are therefore spring ephemerals such as trillium, bloodroot, Jacob's ladder, and wild geranium.

So, while you definitely want to eliminate this weed from your flowerbeds and woodland areas, you may wish to add it to your dinner table. That means you can take the weeds you don't throw away and cook with them! Last night we had a creamy, spicy shrimp and pasta dish that incorporated a little of the garlic mustard obtained from weeding.

Here is a semblance of a recipe.

Creamy Pasta and Shrimp with some Kick

1/2 lb pasta - I used whole wheat farfalle (bow-ties)
1 lb raw shrimp (thaw if frozen)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
one clove fresh garlic - minced fine
1/2 teaspoon hot, red spice (you pick, I used medium hot chili powder)
smaller package fresh basil
about one cup picked garlic mustard
1 tablespoon oil of your choice
1/3 cup half and half
1/8 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Black pepper


Peel shrimp and place in a bowl. Add extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, hot, red spice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Let sit at least 15 minutes.

In a second bowl place the following ingredients as you finish prepping them (less dishes to wash)

Chiffonade the basil.

Tear or cut up the garlic mustard leaves. Saute the leaves in oil or butter about two minutes.

Start your pasta water. While it is coming to a boil, saute those shrimp until they are just cooked through in the same pan you sauteed the garlic mustard leaves. Once cooked set them in the second bowl along with the leaves.

Cook and drain the noodles.

In the pan used for cooking noodles, lower the heat and add the half and half. You can use more half and half or use cream if you are not especially calorie/fat content conscious. Heat it to simmering, Throw in the pasta. Stir to coat the pasta with the slightly reduced half and half. Add Parmesan. Stir to incorporate. Add shrimp and leaves. Stir. Cook just long enough for it all to heat through, another minute or two.


This dish could be varied many, many ways. You could use chicken instead of shrimp. Adding sauteed red bell peppers or other veggies would be wonderful, or you could eliminate meat altogether and go completely veggie.


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