By Geoff Dann 

Garlic mustard or Jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata) is a member of the cabbage family (so related to mustards, but not garlic). It is a common ‘weed’ which grows abundantly in patches locally, usually in slightly shady areas by the sides of paths (if you’re having trouble finding it, try the upper reaches of Alexandra Park). The plant is a biennial – it germinates in the summer, overwinters as a low rosette of leaves before sending up a flowering shoot the following spring, setting seed and dying off. It is easily identified by the smell. The uncrushed leaves are almost odourless, but as soon as you crush them they emit a powerful garlic-like odour. This doesn’t last long, so they have to be used fresh. They are at their best in spring, before the plant has flowered. After that, the taste is too overpowering for most people.

Garlic mustard at Buckshole resevoir

What to do with them? You can just fry them, with salt to offset the slight bitterness, and serve as a side vegetable. Traditionally in Wales they were fried with bacon or herrings. In both cases, only fry the leaves very briefly, because if you cook them for more than a minute or two the bitterness increases and the garlicky flavour disappears. Their most famous use is given away by an older common name: ‘sauce-alone’. The finely chopped leaves are used to make a sauce reminiscent of mint sauce, which makes a fine accompaniment to lamb or strongly-flavoured fish (traditionally, salted fish). This sauce is surprisingly moreish. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the taste for it you will want more!

(quantities all to taste)
• Fresh garlic mustard leaves (chopped, raw)
• Olive oil
• Lemon juice
• Sea Salt
• Pepper
Mix ingredients together and blitz.  

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