Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a very common, and invasive, plant in Northeastern US. It grows everywhere in the woods near me in the spring. This plant is a member of the Brassicaceae which includes other mustards as well as cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and kale.
The Cambridge History of Food talks fairly extensively about the vegetables in this family, and talks about Mustards (including that two types that were brought to the US went wild), but does not mention this specific plant by name.
It is native to Europe and Asia, and was likely brought to the US in the 1800s as a seasoning and medicinal plant. It spreads rapidly and likely quickly found its way out of garden beds and into the wilds. If you want an utterly fascinating read on the the history of this plant, especially as a foraged item in the US, I recommend checking out this JSTOR Plant of the Month article HERE. (Another good article about its use an an ancient seasoning can be found HERE.)
I uprooted a fair bit of garlic mustard today, and also collected some to add to ingredients from my garden for some cheese and herb hand pies. My thoughts are that a Forester who rode out to survey his territory every morning would be taking a meal with him so I thought I would both used this foraged item (which was available in medieval Europe) and incorporate it into a portable food source. Note that this project today is less about redacting a truly medieval recipe, than it is about eradicating a plant that is damaging to the local environment (read more HERE), and making use of a foraged item (as well as random leftovers foraged from my fridge, lol).
So, to that end, I made hand pies that I might craft again when I have the opportunity to do a garbed woods walk with friends. For the filling I used 6oz of cream cheese (softened), and chopped up two small fronds of parsley, a handful of large spinach leaves, a few chives and the leaves of quite a few Garlic Mustard plants. I did not note quantities but you can see what I used in the provided image. I mixed the chopped greens, salt and pepper as well as one egg into the cream cheese and added in a hefty tablespoon of freshly shaved parmesean.
For the pastry, I used 1.25 cups of flour (about half wheat, half white), 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a stick of butter at room temp, cut into small cubes, and 3T cold water. I mix the flour and salt and then when I add the cubes of butter to the flour I mix them in with my hands, pressing the butter and flour together between my thumb and forefinger. I work it until the flour and butter is a grainy mixture with some pea sized lumps. I also had a package with about a heaping tablespoon or so of commercially grated parmesean cheese in it that I needed to use up so I mixed that into dough as well. I have no idea of anyone in the middle ages added hard cheese into crust but it makes a divine pie crust so I used it (sharp cheddar also works well in a crust).
At this point I added in the 3T of water, but I will note, it was almost too much, so I added in a little more flour and, well, pretty much spilled too much into the mix. This left my dough a bit too dry, but I rolled with it anyways at this point. I left this to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes while I mixed up the cheese and herb mix.
I rolled out the dough and used a plastic lid to cut circles that I filled with the cheese and greens mixture, rubbed a bit of water around the edges and folded in half, pressing the seam with a fork. I had enough space on my pan for 5 or so pies so made that many and turned the remaining crust into a small tart. I could have gotten about 7-8 4.5inch circles out of the dough I made had I done all hand pies. I brushed the tops with an egg wash and I baked them at 375 degrees F until they were lightly browned.
The pastry is very light and flakey (almost going into puff pastry territory rather than like a denser pie crust). I over stuffed the hand pies and did not well seal them so they were some what bursting while hot but hold their shape very well once they have cooled down. They taste FANTASTIC and I will absolutely make these again in a month or so with whatever greens and herbs I have in the garden (or woodlands) at that time.
- This plant was likely known to a 14th Century Forester in England
- Plausible foraged or grown food source, potentially used in pottages or where greens are needed
- Remove the weed as I see it due to its invasive nature in the US
- Ongoing work
- Cook with the plant
- Completed, see above
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