Tag: naturalist

The Hunt for Garlic Mustard is ON!

Now is the time to hunt for garlic mustard!! Otherwise known as Alliaria petiolata, a biennial flowering plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).

Spring rain has made the ground soft which helps with removal of garlic mustard’s tap root. This root only goes down for about an inch, then takes an abrupt turn. When you pull slowly, you can feel which way the root goes and pull accordingly. If all of it is not removed, it will grow back like a dandelion. It will also start blooming in our area soon, making it easier to find.

Garlic mustard plant witth white blooming flowers

It is native to large areas of Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa. It was brought here by early settlers as a garden herb, but has broken free of the gardeners patch and is now considered an invasive species.

During the first year of growth, plants form rosette clumps of heart shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves that smell like garlic. The next year plants flower in spring, producing white flowers, and as the flowering stems bloom they stretch into a spike-like shape. This pain-in-the-butt plant has enough energy in it, that if you pull it while it’s blooming, it can still produce seeds, which are released during the early summer. You’re best bet is to burn it ASAP or bag it. Do not compost, unless you’re very attentive to your pile.

So what can be done about this invasive species? EAT IT!

Garlic mustard can be found growing almost anywhere, but prefers a shady location. Procuring this herb is as easy as traveling to your nearest forest preserve. Removing native plants from protected parks is illegal, however because of garlic mustard’s invasive status, most parks will encourage you to take all you’d like.

Garlic Mustard Recipes:

Garlic Mustard Pesto

garlic mustard pesto

2 cups garlic mustard leaves, 1/4 cup walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup pecorino romano (or Parmesan) cheese, grated

Use a food processor to combine the garlic mustard leaves, walnuts and garlic – pulse until very finely minced. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and blend until smooth. Add the cheese – pulse to combine.

Garlic Mustard Scallion Cakes

2 eggs, 1 bunch scallions/chopped, 1 pkg flour tortillas, 1 cup garlic mustard/chopped, 2 tsp sesame oil, oil for frying. Mix scallions and garlic mustard. Beat together eggs and sesame oil. Brush on side of a tortilla with egg mixture. Sprinkle on scallion/garlic mustard mixture. Brush egg mix on another tortilla, then put on top of 1st tortilla with egg side down. (Separate cakes with wax paper, repeat until all tortillas are used. Cover with plate and weigh down with cans to seal tortilla (about 15 minutes). Heat oil in heavy pan. Brown cakes on both sides (~2 minutes total). Drain on paper towel. Cut into wedges and serve.

Garlic Mustard Tossed Salad

4-6 leaves ruby red leaf lettuce, 4-6 leaves Romaine Lettuce, 1-2 handfuls tender garlic mustard leaves, French sorrel and bronze fennel (one leaf each), 1/3 cup mandarin orange slices, drained 1 slice of smoked salmon, 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, croûtons.

Wash and crisp all the leaves and tear the lettuce leaves into a salad bowl. Cut the garlic mustard leaves, the French sorrel and the fennel into narrow strips and add to the salad. Cut the oranges and the smoked salmon into thin strips and place in the salad. Sprinkle on sunflower seeds and croûtons. Dress lightly with Italian dressing. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Garlic Mustard

20 medium garlic mustard leaves + 1/4 cup of chopped leaves, 1 cup of (any type of) sausage, 1 cup of rice, 2 Tbsn. chopped garlic, 1 Tbsn. lemon juice.

Mix rice and sausage and stir well. Add chopped leaves and lemon and toss. Put a teaspoon of this mix on a medium leaf of garlic mustard. Roll & hold leaf together with a toothpick. Serve on a plate.

© The Naturarian

Why Native Plants Rock – Part 1 of 4

canadian white violet flower
Canadian White Violet

Many native plants, animals and insects have become endangered as the world’s population grows and expands into areas previously untouched by humans. To mitigate these issues, residents should be encouraged to use native plants in their landscape. Not only do natives promote habitats, a community can save water and reduce erosion and flooding problems.

Lake County, Illinois’s 2010 census has the population at 703,462 with projections of 786,000 by 2020. Lake County is one of the fastest growing counties in Illinois, and that will mean many, large subdivisions being built here.

dead dirt
The ‘Dirt-Pile-Of-Death’…..

One of the problems is the builders of these new communities strip off a deep, top-layer of earth before building, and pile it up in the corner of the land. This “top-soil” looses nutrients, becomes compacted, and looses it’s air circulation promoting harmful, bacterial growth within it. As the houses are being built, heavy construction equipment collapses and compacts the lower horizon of soil (generally clay here) promoting poor drainage. After building is complete, the piled up, nutrient poor, mediocre topsoil is replaced. Aside from installing a water greedy lawn, the neighborhood is usually left with little other vegetation.

NON-NATIVE AND INVASIVE SPECIES

Another problem is when new people move to a new area, they want to bring or install the plants they remember from home. Most non-native plants are not deleterious, but they will use up more of your time and resources. However, sometimes these non-native plants can become extreme bothers; these species are called invasive species. A fable many, naive people believe is that an area overrun with non-natives will “go back” to native plants if an area is left alone; this is untrue!

There are many non-native plants that are generally no danger to the local environment. Though many of the non-invasive, non-native plants that people use in their gardens are stressed in the different environment, they may acclimate over a few years. Despite the fact that the plant may look healthy, it may be because of all the additional water, fertilizer and care a person must give to it. Because of all these added requirements these plants often become a maintenance issue, pollution concern (fertilizer run-off) and accrue costs accordingly.

burning bush type of plant with red leaves not on fire haha
Euonymus alaus – Burning bush

The real danger to the native landscape is non-native, invasive species. An invasive plant has the ability to thrive and multiply aggressively outside its natural range (everything is native to somewhere). Some invasive plants are worse than others.  Many invasive plants continue to be admired by gardeners, and sold illegally by nurseries that may not be aware of their weedy nature, or just want to make money. Others are recognized as weeds but property owners fail to do their part in preventing their spread.

Examples of some of the plants that were just recently added to the invasive species list for this area were: Acer platanoides – Norway Maple, Berberis thunbergii – Japanese Barberry, Euonymus alata – Burning Bush, Viburnum opulus – European Cranberry Bush, and Lonicera spp. – all exotic honeysuckles, to name a few.

Some of the characteristics used to classify an invasive species are:

  • They produce large numbers of plants seasonally.
  • They tolerate many weather conditions and soil types.
  • They spread proficiently by wind, water, and animals.
  • They grow rapidly, allowing them to displace slower growing plants.
  • They spread rampantly and are free of the checks and balances of their native range.

If people continue to use non-native plants in the landscape, many native species of plants, insects and animals will be lost. Aside from this, the cost of non-invasive plant maintenance and the time needed to care for them are higher, as the non-natives cannot fight out the invasives (increased weeding time and/or herbicide use). However, a native plant garden that is established and has it’s biosphere in check will be able to fend off most non-natives.

Check in tomorrow for the next part of the four day series

© The Naturarian