If it is Spring in Pennsylvania, you can be sure the invasive garlic mustard plant is showing off its tiny flowers somewhere near your favorite running trail.
Joining a garlic mustard pull on an evening hike was my opportunity to give a bit of volunteer time to benefit the Appalachian Trail. I don’t see myself shoring up stream banks or carrying in lumber to repair bridges and walkways over swampy areas. I do have extensive experience in weed pulling. There is a volunteer job for everyone and this one suits me.
The garlic mustard plant found its way to our shores and doesn’t have any plan to leave voluntarily. It rudely spreads itself in the undergrowth of forests and then becomes the dominant plant, muscling out native species. So, if you are looking for a beneficial but lightweight volunteer gig with your local trails, contact their leadership and ask if they are planning a garlic mustard pull. Then, join in.
Based on my experience, here is a preferred method to go about this task:
Place yourself in or near a full bed of garlic mustard so that you can reach several plants without changing position. Then, do a gentle squat (very beneficial mid-hike). Staying in the squat position, with each of the plants within reach, place your fingers around the base of the plant, then pull straight up. The plant gives way easily, especially if your weed pull is scheduled a day or so after a rain.
Keep pulling until your bag (or bags) are full. If you are near a road intersection, bags can go directly into the car trunk of one of the hikers. Then, good-bye garlic mustard.
Bag everything. Any weeded plant left on the ground is likely to reseed.
What’s for Dinner?
I won’t leave you with the impression that any plant is all bad. A fellow hiker informed me that she eats garlic mustard, adding it in her salad. I checked this out on a couple of sites and in seems that with certain precautions, the garlic mustard will provide a bit of zest to your table.
The most thorough site I found regarding eating this plant is the cleverly titled EAT THE INVADERS.
The article includes other edible options for garlic mustard, including preparation methods for a foods from pestos to stews, and even a cocktail.
The author also offers a reasonable list of safety precautions to consider before using the plant. Most are common sense items, but if you plan to forage, I suggest giving their article a read.
Spring offers wonderful opportunities for running the trails and for trying new things. Do you have experience foraging food? Have you participated in a mustard garlic pull or efforts to remove any other invasive species from our forest floors?