Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Garlic Mustard is more of a hedgerow plant than a true woodland species. Obviously from its name it has a smell of garlic if you pick a leaf and crush it in your hand. It was used in the past and possibly still is as a pot herb. As you might expect it has several alternative and regional names, perhaps the one most people will know is Jack by the Hedge.Other common names include garlic root, hedge garlic, sauce-alone, Jack-in-the-bush, penny hedge and poor man’s mustard. 

The photos here were taken early in the year, April, later as the season progresses the flower develops into a long spike. Also the early leaves are heart shaped and leaves produced later in the year become more triangular and pointed.

It is a member of the cabbage family, Cruciferae and so it has four petals which are in a cross shape, this species has white petals. All parts are edible and as you would expect the flavour is a mix of Garlic with a mustard/peppery element to it. I have read that it can have a bit of a bitter aftertaste. however there are lots of references to ways to use it, from chopping the leaves and adding them into a sandwich or a salad through to pesto and sauces for salt fish. The more you look the more ideas you will find, generally though young leaves seem to be preferable to older leaves and avoid plants growing next to a road or path where exhaust fumes and or dogs might have spoilt the flavour.

Below is a photo of some Garlic Mustard with two Shield bugs on the leaves, these are Hairy Shieldbug,  Dolycoris baccarum.Hairy Shield Bug

This was formerly known as the  Sloe Bug. It does not eat Sloes nor is is Hedge Garlic one of its food plants. It is a very common species and found on a range of low-growing plants, but particularly White Dead Nettle and Verbascum. The adults over-winter in leaf-litter, or tucked into dead leaves remaining on the plant during the Winter. Of all the stink bugs this one is the worst for producing a bad smell.  It really loves berries, especially Honeysuckle and Raspberries. It walks all over them, leaving behind an awful stinking substance. This makes all berries it walked over inedible. Like in other Stink Bugs the substance is made for protection. A bird or other enemy will eat only one bug in its entire live. Afterwards it will always remember the dreadful taste and will never touch another bug again.

One insect which does feed on this plant is the catterpillar of the Orange Tip butterfly, it also feeds on Cuckoo Flower.

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2 thoughts on “Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

  1. Fascinating! Great blog!


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