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During my fortnight absence the Urban Pond has taken on an urgent verdancy. Everything is accelerating towards the sunlight, plants are casting out fresh green leaves and flowering in profusion. There’s something wildly positive and affirming about such exuberant, luxurious life.

garlic-mustard

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One of the plants that’s now towering confidently above the crowd is Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) an early flowering hedge plant that grows well in the damp shady margins of the pond and under the developing semi-shade of the trees. At almost 4ft tall it’s delicate green leaves and snowwhite flowers stand out. It’s a biennial flowering plant in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. Botanically the species is Alliaria Petiolata Alliariea or ‘resembling Allium’, the genus for garlic and onions. It is from the Greek word αλέω which means ‘to avoid’ presumably because of the garlicky-oniony aroma!
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Garlic Mustard has many other folk names including Jack (or devil)-by-the-hedge, Garlic Root, Hedge Garlic, Sauce-alone, Jack-in-the-bush, Penny Hedge and Poor Man’s Mustard.
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Jack-by-the-hedge is resilient and profligate and so, inevitably widespread. It can be found in the countryside and, as here by the Urban Pond, in built-up of areas. It’s the kind of determined survivor you see poking up through splits in pavements. In the first year it has crinkly, rounded or kidney-shaped green leaves, these leaves have a pervasive smell of garlic if lightly rubbed or crushed. The leaves of the mature plant are broadly nettle-like, stalked, with numerous broad teeth. It flowers in Spring, producing 4-petal cross shaped white flowers in dense clusters. As the flowering stems bloom they elongate into a spike-like shape. When blooming is complete, plants produce upright fruits that release countless seeds in mid-summer. As the plant ages the scent gradually fades, until it is only just noticeable. Jack-by-the-hedge then slowly withers away – until the following year…

 

AlliariaOfficinalis

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If you’re feeling adventurous then – the leaves make ideal sandwich fillers, and if finely chopped and mixed with a little olive oil, make a refreshing and delicate salad dressing. The flowers also have the punchy garlicky flavour and can also be added to salads.   Garlic Mustard and Spinach Raviolis with Garlic Mustard Pesto: • 4 shallots / 1 clove garlic • 2 cups spinach • 2 cups garlic mustard • 4 oz. ricotta cheese • 2 oz. Parmesan cheese • 2 oz. chopped sundried tomotoes • 6 sheets fresh pasta Saute shallots and garlic in 2 tbl butter until tender. Add spinach and garlic mustard greens & wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and cool slightly. Squeeze excess liquid from green and chop. Combine all ingredients and season to taste. Cut pasta sheets to desired size. Eggwash pasta and fill with garlic mustard and spinach mixture. Garlic Mustard Pesto: • 1 cup garlic mustard • 1/2 cup basil • 3 cloves garlic • 2 oz. toasted pinenuts • 4 oz. olive oil • juice of 1 lemon In food processor combine all ingredients except olive oil. Puree and add olive oil with processor running. Toss cooked raviolis with pesto. Country people at one time used the plant in sauces, with bread and butter, salted meat and with lettuce in salads, hence it acquired also the name of Sauce Alone – enjoy!

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