Side Dishes

Garlic Mustard: An Early Spring Arrival

My mentor, Gary Lincoff, professional botanist and author of the Audubon Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, cautioned his students not to be a ”plant snob.”

Garlic mustard is invasive, choking out native plants. But it is edible.

I will never get tired of saying that what I like best about foraging is that so many edible plants grow in abundance without any help from me.

I grew up on a farm. Planting, weeding, watering and harvesting are hard work. Foraging is fun.

Garlic mustard is one of the ten featured plants in my e-book, Joyful Foraging: Learn How to Feast on the Food Growing All Around You. Take a close look at the heart shaped leaves with scalloped edges and deep veins.

These are tastiest before the weather warms up. Once the white flowers appear, the leaves become bitter
While you're in the field, look for field garlic pictured on the right, also featured in my e-book.

Meanwhile enjoy this recipe for garlic mustard with sesame oil:


Foraged items:
1. Garlic mustard greens
2. Field garlic, if you find it

Purchased items:
1. Sesame oil
2. Onion - if you don't find field garlic

Gather enough greens to fill a paper lunch bag
If you find field garlic, gather it to use instead of an onion

1. Rinse greens to remove any dirt and blot dry
2. Coarsely chop leaves
3. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add chopped greens
4. Boil for 10 minutes or until the water is bright green
5. Remove from heat, drain leaves and discard water
6. Chop field garlic or onion
7. Sauté until golden
8. Stir in cooked garlic mustard greens

Remove from heat, plate and serve

garlic mustard sesame oil 003.JPG

Wild Edible Basics, TJF Originals

Foraging Wild Edibles in Your Neighborhood

Why work so hard to forage, when we have farms? Harvesting is the only way to get the freshest produce.

Unless you live on a farm, the only way to make the field to table short is to forage. To get to market, farmers have to harvest produce hours in advance, then load their vehicles, travel from farm to market site and then unpack the vegetables people come to buy.

Try this:

In the field, harvest a few leaves, blossoms or fruit leaf, flower, or fruit.

Taste one immediately. Save the other and taste it later.

How were the flavor and texture different? Did you also notice that the more you handle any fruit or vegetable, the more it gets bruised? That also impacts flavor.

Let's face it, whatever we pick and nibble in the field will taste better than anything brought home later.

Where else can you do your shopping while on a daily walk?

If you establish walking routines, you get to notice what is growing and where. Observe the life cycle of the plant, so you know where and when to find it, ensuring peak flavor whenever you take a walk. That will save time in the long run

Lamb’s Quarters Growing in a Tree Pit NYC

Lamb’s Quarters Growing in a Tree Pit NYC

Quickweed growing in a flower pot.

Quickweed growing in a flower pot.

In some urban and suburban neighborhoods residents plant flowers and vegetables. I've actually seen corn plants and tomato plants around some trees in sunny urban neighborhoods. People care about their homes and most of the time these bits of garden are well tended.

You can be sure that weeds will grow and if you are in a position to make friends, offer to help weed.

Good neighbor weeding:

First, trim the tender tops and then root out the weed. If it is not an invasive bully, why not replant that weed in your own window box if you have one? As you become better acquainted, these neighbors may be willing to let the lamb's quarters, purslane, and Asiatic day flower grow, knowing you won't let them crowd out their plants.

Now, you'll have a regular foraging place supported by your gardener neighbors.

I'm a forager in everything I do. I forage for farmed produce and household items left behind by former neighbors in addition to foraging wild foods. It's not just about saving money, it's also about keeping useful items out of the land fill.

In my perfect world, we'd all be foragers looking at our streets, roads and open spaces as places to nurture, rather than places to throw our garbage.

Is it a dream? Maybe. But in an often fast-paced, wasteful and stressful world, it's a pretty good dream.

Wild Edible Basics

Foraging Your Local Farmers' Markets

Why Forage at a Farmers' Market?

In my world, foraging is the quest for food, whether or not I'm the one who harvests the food. Farmers markets are ideal for beginning foragers. Everyone who shops there gets to:

*support local farmers and learn ways to get good value

*eat the freshest food - shortest time from field to table

*safely learn about the flavor and preparation of unfamiliar vegetables and fruit.

Looking for the best quality? Get there early.

While the farmers are setting up, it's easier to see what's available and the condition of the produce.


Looking for bargains? Cruise the market late in the day.

Farmers maybe willing to negotiate price, because it's more practical to take money than to transport unsold produce.


1. Say "hi" to the farmer. You'll be amazed at the rewards.

Last summer, I saw lamb's quarters with pink top leaves at a farmer's stand.

This clever farmer saved the seeds from the "weeds" in her garden, replanting this wild edible in another spot. After a few years of selective breeding for pink leaves, the farmer now has enough seeds to sell to a seed company.

Imagine that! A farmer has embraced a wild edible, lamb's quarters, and cultivated it for looks. The lines between farming and foraging are already merging.

2. Walk the entire market before buying anything. Notice the condition and the price of what is available.

3. Eat samples offered. Get an idea of the flavor and texture of unfamiliar items and find new ways to enjoy what you already love.

4. Once you decide where to buy, look at everything offered. If an individual fruit or vegetable has a bruise or a bit of damage on one spot, negotiate the price.

Disclaimer: The item has to have the right texture and the right color; it can't be overripe, crushed or moldy.

Next time, we'll head out to our neighborhoods.