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Trish Dent

Sunday, 10 May 2015

At the bottom of my garden....

 ...there are stands of these beautiful wild plants. This British native has many names: garlic mustard, jack o' the hedge and jack-by-the-hedge. Its latin name is Alliaria petiolata and it's a popular food for larvae of the orange tip butterfly. This plant loves damp shade and East Anglia can be a little dry but it likes our garden's heavy clay soil well enough. I have deliberately allowed Jack to seed and spread in my garden, for my own use as well as for those butterflies. 
The leaves and stems are edible and taste somewhat garlicky and have a hot mustard pungence. After picking what is needed, I simply rinse in fresh water, chop finely and add to salads. With the addition of parsley that has also seeded in odd spots around my vegetable garden, it infuses fabulous flavour into a quinoa tabbouli. A little more chopping and, with the addition of olive oil and sea salt, it becomes an instant homemade pesto which brings flavour and spring vibrancy to not only pasta, but buckwheat, sweet potatoes and more.  Don't be tempted to put it in a food processor of any sort; macerating it seems to bring bitter flavours to the fore.
The season for this wild plant is short and by late spring it will have died away. Remember that, as well as being bad form to pick wild plants, it is also illegal; leave all wild plants for our struggling wildlife and butterflies. I can let you have some pods and seeds if you'd like to establish some in your own garden.