Garlic mustard

Garlic mustard in flower (Alliaria petiolata)
Garlic Mustard is a common plant in the UK and Ireland. Its leaves exude a garlicky smell when bruised and taste a bit like mustard.

Table of Contents

Garlic Mustard: Plant profile

Common names

Garlic Mustard, Hedge Garlic, Jack by the Hedge, Jack in the Bush, Poor Man’s Mustard, Sauce Alone, Penny Hedge, Garlic Wort, Bóchoinneal

Botanical name

Alliaria petiolata

Plant Family

Brassicaceae (Cabbage)

Distribution

Native throughout Europe, North Africa, western and central Asia. Introduced in North America, where it’s considered invasive. Very common throughout England, Wales, south Scotland and east Ireland.

Where to find Garlic Mustard

Shady hedgerows, woodland hedges and disturbed areas.

When to find Garlic Mustard

Leaves early to mid-spring. Seeds early to late summer.

How to identify Garlic Mustard

Hedge garlic is an herbaceous biennial plant, meaning it has a two-year life cycle. In the first year, it forms a compact basal rosette of heart-shaped leaves with rough teeth. During year two, Garlic Mustard develops a flower stalk and reaches up to 120cm tall. The seed pods are green and thin.

Garlic Mustard lookalikes

It could be confused with Honesty (Lunaria annua) by the leaves, but it has purple flowers. Garlic Mustard also resembles Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), however flowers are yellow and leaves are often variegated. None of those two smell of garlic, like it does Hedge Garlic.

Garlic mustard leaves (Alliaria petiolata)

All about Garlic Mustard

This biennial herb, member of the cabbage family, does exactly what it says on the tin. The flavour is a pleasant mixture of mild garlic and a hint of mustard, though it becomes bitter after flowering.

You’ll find it growing abundantly in the shade of hedgerows and woodland edges, along footpaths and disturbed areas all year long, though it’s best picked early to mid-spring.

How to identify Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard has been little used in herbal medicine. The leaves are effective in relieving the itching caused by bites and stings and have been used to treat asthma, bronchitis and eczema.

Culinary uses and recipes with Garlic Mustard

Every part of the plant is edible. The flowers make a pretty garnish for salads and the dried seeds work as a poor man’s mustard. The long thin taproot has a mild horseradish flavour too.

The leaves are best finely chopped and added sparingly to salads or eaten in cheese sandwiches. A “pesto” sauce seems to be a forager’s favourite, but it also pairs very well with lamb. Add to soups and stews at the very end of cooking, otherwise they’ll make the meal taste bitter.

Garlic mustard young leaves (Alliaria petiolata)

Safe foraging of Garlic Mustard

No hazards known.

Ecological importance of Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard is a source of food for the caterpillars of the orange-tip butterfly

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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