Eat the Invasives: Wild Thistle

I’m a big fan of foraging and when I saw a podcast on the “Sustainable World Radio” series entitled, “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds with Katrina Blair” I got pretty excited!  I learned SO much from this podcast!

One of the most intriguing wild edible featured was Thistle.  This spring I pulled a few wheelbarrows full of this prickly invasive out of my lawn.  It spreads SO fast and is SO painful to step on.  I absolutely don’t regret removing it but I do regret not juicing it!

The kids and I decided to sample some thistle juice for ourselves yesterday.  Finding the plants around the periphery of the yard was pretty easy. Even my 22 month old was pointing them out!

Thoroughly soaking the greens seemed like a good idea to removed dirt and whatever else might still be lurking.   Washing them was especially fun as lots of little creatures came to the top and I removed slugs and bugs and put them into bowls for the kids to watch.IMG_1544

 

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We don’t have a juicer so we put them into the blender with a little orange juice.  After blending I strained them twice to remove any remaining spikes. Once thought a metal strainer and then a second time through cloth. The juice that remained was surprisingly tasty.  We made a second batch with just water added and all agreed that the orange juice was an important addition.

My kids loved it and it was really fun to experience this plant in a new way!  Apparently thistle is great for detoxifying and has lots of healthy benefits.  The process was a little labor intensive so I don’t think this will be a regular thing but it was a fun experiment for sure!

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Here’s a video by someone who knows MUCH more about this stuff than I do!

Edible invasives: Garlic Mustard

IMG_0110I’ve been excited by the idea of foraging for food since I was a little girl. I remember sucking the sweet nectar from clover buds in the fields around my childhood home and the delight of finding wild raspberries or blueberries on summer walks.

It seems like foraging is really having a moment now though, which is equally as exciting! Foraging gives us a cheap source of  food that is high in vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in the forest floor. Unfortunately, over foraging can negatively effect healthy growth of the foraged species as well as the health of the overall forest.

That is NOT the case when it comes to foraging for invasive species though!  Eat all you want! PLEASE!

Garlic Mustard is a terribly invasive plant that was believed to have first been introduced in the late 1800s as a culinary and medicinal herb.  It spreads rapidly  when left to go to seed and not only does it push out other native plants but it also releases chemicals into the forest floor that interfere with tree growth.  So yeah, not so good!

BUT it is very tasty and easy to harvest and prepare.  Look on forest floors, around the edge of the forest and in shady rode side area.   It has a somewhat heart shaped leaf and grows in bunches so it’s easy to find. If you are unsure just press a leaf in your hands and smell it.  Do you get a big whiff of garlic and onion?  You’ve got it!

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The leaves can be large or small.  These ones are pretty big.  Lovely, right?

Make sure to pull out the root too to stop this guy from spreading even further!

I decided to use mine to make pesto!  You could even just use the leaves in sandwiches or to add a spicy kick to salads though if you want to keep it simple.

You will need:

  • Garlic Mustard
  • Parmesan cheese shredded (or whatever hard cheese you have)
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts (or pine nuts, or whatever you think would be good)
  • lemon (although vinegar could work too)
  • Salt (I LOVE salt)

Call me crazy but I kind of just do all the ingredients to taste and based on how much I have.  I’m not much for measuring…

Next take it in and wash all the dirt off.  I like soaking in a big bowl of water as it’s an easy way to separate the dirt from the plant.  I threw in a few pumps of my Dr. Bronners soap since I put it in everything I wash.  You can read about how I make mine here.  Then rinse well with cold water and you’re ready to go!  I just used the leaves but you can also eat the roots like horseradish apparently?

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Toast walnuts in the oven until fragrant.  We were roasting a chicken at 375 and that worked but I think 325 is the ideal temperature.  Maybe 5-10 minutes?

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Combine Garlic Mustard, walnuts, olive oil and shredded cheese  in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add in some lemon if you want. I like squeezing lemon into a strainer so that the seeds don’t get in.  Add salt to taste.

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Use your own judgement as to what it needs until it’s just right!  Toss with pasta, use it as a salad dressing by adding extra oil and vinegar or spread on sandwiches!  It is surprisingly delicious!

So yeah, Garlic Mustard is a super healthy ingredient that you can find in your own yard from spring until fall!  The flavor is usually best in spring though so test a leaf before going too far with the recipe.  I LOVE the idea that we can decrease invasive plants, help encourage native species AND feed our family well.  Now that’s permaculture right there!

Which edible invasives are your favorites?!?!