Herb Profile: Garlic Mustard, Jack By The Hedge

Botanical Name: Alliaria petiolata160932_5968b104

Family:  Brassicaceae (Cabbage Family)

Common Names: Jack by the Hedge, Jack in the Bush, Garlic Root, Hedge Garlic, Sauce-alone, Penny Hedge, Poor Man’s Mustard

Identification:  Found in hedges and edges. A biennial with a distinct mustardy smell. In it’s first year a rosette of heart shaped leaves with a wavy margin are formed. In it’s second year a terminal cluster of small white cross shaped flowers are formed. The seed capsules can reach 6cm. The genus Alliaria means ‘Allium resembling’ due to alliaria-petiolata-20100514-bthe garlicky smell emitted when the foliage is crushed.

Parts Used: Leaves – most of the year from a plant in it’s first year of growth; Flowers – mid-spring to early summer; Seeds – early to late summer.

Qualities: Warming, Drying

Edibility & Nutrition: When crushed, the aptly named Garlic Mustard hits you with a mustardy flavour, which then transforms into a garlicky after taste. Rich in Vitamin A & C, the fresh leaves are great added to salads and pesto, but as they are bitter they are best added with other herbs. They are also nice added to soups but don’t overcook or the bitter flavour will take over the dish. Best to wilt them in at the end.

Growing & Harvesting: So prolific in the wild, there isn’t a need to grow it at home. Harvest leaves
before the plant comes into flower and use fresh or dry for later use.

Medicinal Actions & Uses: Anti-asthmatic, Anti-septic, Diaphoretic, Nutritive, Vermifuge, Vulnerary.

  • Internally the leaves have been used to promote sweating to help treat
    asthma and eczema.
  • Externally they have been used as a poultice for countering infection
    or relieving itching
  • The leaves have been chewed to relieve the pain of mouth ulcers.
  • In cases of bronchitis the roots have been chopped up, heated in oil, and the ointment created rubbed on the chest for relief.

History and Folklore: ‘The poor people in the country eat the leaves of this plant with their bread,
and on the account of the relish they give, call them sauce-alone. They also
mix them with lettuce, use them as a stuffing herb to pork and eat them with
salt fish.’ -Charles Bryant, Flora Dietetica (1783)

Active Constituents: Mustard Oil Glycosides

Contra-indications & Cautions: Excessive consumption of members of the Brassica family is contra-indicated for people with hypothyroidism. Some people may find external use of this plant a skin irritant.

Preparations: Traditionally used finely chopped in salads and as a sauce for lamb and fish. Richard Mabey recommends ‘in early spring chop theleaves with hawthorn buds and a little mint, mix well with vinegar and sugar and serve
with lamb like mint sauce.’ A poultice can be applied with it’s mildly antibiotic effects for slow healing wounds, and used as a gargle for oral infections.

References: 

Barker, J. (2001) The Medicinal Flora of Britain and Northwestern Europe Winter Press
Fowler, A. (2011) The Thrifty Forager Kyle Books.
Hatfield, G. (2007) Hatfield’s Herbal: The secret history of British plants, Allen Lane
Hensel, W. (2008) Black’s Nature Guides: Medicinal Plants of Britain and Europe A&C Black London
Plants For A Future (2012) Available from: www.pfaf.org.uk
Mabey, R. (2007) Food For Free, Collins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *