I’m focussing on foraging again today. Jack by the Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) is a spring foraging favourite; also known as Garlic Mustard, it is a very common native perennial in the cabbage family. The distinctive cross-like flowers which characterise the cabbage family can be clearly seen in this photo by Nic Cairns, taken on St. Anns Allotments:
All parts of Jack by the Hedge are edible. The plant has a pleasant garlic taste, which becomes more pungent as the plant gets older. The young tender leaves are excellent at this time of year in salads, steamed like spinach, or as a wayside snack! This can be a useful fresh green contribution to the diet at a time when not many local green vegetable crops are available. Older plants have long fleshy taproots which can be used like horseradish.
It’s also an important food plant for many insects, including the Orange-Tip Butterfly. However, it is less beneficial in North America, where it was introduced as a culinary plant and has become a troublesome invasive, to the detriment of wildlife there – an illustration of the dangers of invasive species. Here in Nottingham though, it’s a welcome find for foragers and for wildlife.