Foraging for Food Part 2: From Wild Pest to Perfect Pesto

This week, I was inspired to use another wild plant growing in large amounts around where I live. Across from my street is a forest, and I noticed that the pathways were covered in a plant that was a few feet tall, with triangular leaves and small white flowers (1). After going on the foraging course with my mother for Mother’s Day, I was enticed to identify the plant and see if it was indeed edible. The plant turned out to be Garlic Mustard or Alliaria petiolata, which is from the Mustard family (Brassicaceae) (2). The Brassica family also contains cruciferous vegetables and cabbages which all contain cancer-fighting compounds such as glucosinolates. These compounds consist of sulfur-containing molecules, which are responsible for its pungent odor but also are helpful in metabolizing toxic byproducts from its breakdown products isothiocyanate and indole-3-carbinole (3). Observational studies of humans consuming vegetables in the brassica family seem to show (4,5) cancer-preventative effects - likely due to their high glucosinolate content. It is also thought to be high in Vitamins A and C, among other minerals.

Garlic Mustard is actually an invasive species that was brought in from Europe for edible purposes. The plants are 1-2 feet tall, with triangular tooth-edged leaves off of the stems. You will notice small white flowers on the top of the plant. Most importantly, if you rub the leaves they will have a garlicky, mustard smell!

 Wild Garlic Mustard

Wild Garlic Mustard


Garlic Mustard Dairy-free Pesto


•   1 cup washed and drained garlic mustard leaves, moderately packed

•   2 tablespoons other fresh herb, like oregano, basil, or thyme (optional)

•   1 large garlic clove

•   1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast (can substitute for Parmesan cheese)

•   2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds (or other nut)

•   1/2 teaspoon salt

•   Dash black pepper

•   1/2-1 cup extra virgin olive oil

•   1-2 tsp of lemon juice


1.     Place all ingredients in a food processor. Turn on and process until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice.

2.     Check the consistency of your pesto and add more oil if desired, pulsing the processor to combine. I like this with the full cup of oil.

3.     Add more salt and pepper to taste.

4.     Add additional lemon juice if finding the taste too bitter

Is delicious on a pasta or served with chips as a dip, as pictured below.

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