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Monday, 3 June 2019

Removing Invasives and Making Garlic Mustard Pesto

It's high in Vitamin A and C, and has a potent flavor. (And it indeed has a garlicy flavour).

A common invasive species that can be found in Ontario is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). It is native to Europe, and as the name suggests  is classified a type of mustard and has a garlic-like smell.

It is currently early June and blooming season, and in the patches can be seen all over with small white flowers blooming at their tips.

This plant populates fast and can outcompetes many other plants. In some cases it looks like a wall; taking over a garden patch or area of soil, stopping only at a lawn mix (which more than likely contains other non-native species too).

About a week ago I noticed a big patch of garlic mustard in a parkette garden where many birds have always lived. This plant is everywhere, but I figured why not try to pull what I can. I called the city to make sure it isn't an area of study or anything, and decided to remove what I could just with some gardening gloves and a little jabby tool to make it even easier to get the root.

The weather was perfect for t-shirt and jeans, and a pair of mourning doves cooed nearby, reminding me to tread carefully. Although there were many trees where they could nest, they reminded me to keep an eye out just in case they or any other wildlife were nesting on the ground.

Despite how aggressively garlic mustard spreads, they are relatively easy to pull out and don't have prickles or anything. The younger stalks especially do break easily, but a small hand tool can help with getting the roots.

At a volunteer event several years ago at the Kortright Centre in Vaughn, our team leader Joanna explained that once broken the pods spread hundreds of seeds. If you decide to remove some garlic mustard, avoid snapping any pods and maybe give the bottoms of your shoes a wipe or quick scrub with a brush to avoid carrying the seeds around to other aresa (good practice in general, especially if you visit a conservation area or other potentially fragile ecosystem).

When disposing, also cautions to throw them in the garbage, not the compost, as discarded flowers can still produce seeds .They also direct citizens to please report sightings in the wild to the Invading Species Hotline (1-800-563-7711) or on EDDMapS Ontario.

After carting away as much as I could carry, I decided to make a pesto with some of the leaves, spinning off of tama matsuoko wong of Food52's recipe, adding:

olive oil to taste
about 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
three cloves of regular garlic
squirt of lemon juice
teaspoon salt
teaspoon sugar
handful of pistachios (instead of pine nuts)
added to ~6 cups of chopped garlic mustard leaves

The leaves have a bitter taste, but blending it with pistachios and plenty of oil smoothed out the flavour nicely and it came with an especially satisfying feeling.

Again, this plant is all over, and garlic mustard is not a valuable food source for other wildlife in this area (Ontario) so you don't have to worry that you're taking away an animal's dinner. So go wild on it; feel free to have a pull-then-pesto party, there is lots to go around yet.


Garlic Mustard – Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2019, from

Wong, T. M. (2014, May 06). Garlic Mustard Pesto Recipe on Food52. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from

Left: My trusty cart. A person actually stopped to comment that it made a pretty bouquet.

Article title updated 7 Nov 2019
Edited 17 July 2020

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