Common name: Garlic mustard, hedge garlic, jack in the edge, jack in the bush, poor man’s mustard, hedge garlic, sauce alone
Botanical name: Alliaria petiolata
Family: Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Worldwide distribution: Native throughout Europe, North Africa, western and central Asia. Introduced in North America, where it’s considered invasive.
Local distribution: Very common throughout England, Wales, south Scotland and east Ireland.
Habitat: Shady hedgerows, woodland hedges and disturbed areas.
Foraging season: Leaves early to mid-spring. Seeds early to late summer.
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.
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. The plant becomes rather rank after the flowers appear and the weather gets hotter.
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.
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.