Hedge-garlic, Alliaria petiolata, is also known as mustard garlic or jack-by-the-hedge; nicknames are a sign of usefulness (or warning) in the rural lexicon. It is no relation to the alliums, perennial bulb plants with robust leaves, but a soft-leaved annual with juicy stalks, raggedy leaves and flowers like little white stars. The plants looks delicate but is surprisingly robust, capable of reaching the top of a hedge by winding its way through the ladder of thorns. Pick when young as far down as the stalk can easily be snapped with the fingers. If not needed immediately, treat your gatherings like flowers and pop the stems in water overnight. When cooked as a green vegetable, the leaves quickly collapse into a mush. So it’s best included in a mix of more robust wild gatherings - plantain, nettle, mallow – and combined with spinach or any greens which would be all the better for its mustardy-garlicky flavour. To use raw, shred into a salad, or use as a finishing sprinkle for a chilled summer soup - sorrel or watercress or an iced gazpacho. Or whizz the young leaves and stalks with olive oil, parsley and lemon-juice as a dressing for a potato salad or a sauce for grilled fish. A layer of the tender leaves is good in cucumber sandwiches and as a delicate flavouring for a cream cheese dip.
ELISABETH LUARD, @elisabethluard.