How to Make an Invasive Plant Species into a Delicious Pesto!

Written by Erin Whitney
    Saturday, 03 April 2021
How to Make an Invasive Plant Species into a Delicious Pesto!

'Tis the season for Garlic Mustard Pesto! As the soil warms up, this sea of green takes over local forest floors. Garlic Mustard is an invasive species to North America and discourages native plants from growing by releasing lasting antifungal chemicals into the soil.

Removing garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is no one-day task, take some time to correctly ID a bunch and remove its root and all! Its seed can survive up to 10 years in the soil. So bag it up and dispose, or blend up its leaves and stems for a tasty pesto or soup. Note the roots should be discarded into a garbage bag, not your compost.

Garlic Mustard is also known to poison the larva of our local butterflies! So I say, “eat pesto for butterflies!”

Please remember to be an ethical nature explorer. Be mindful that some wild edible plants are at risk when they’re harvested in a high-trafficked trail or natural urban space. And while garlic mustard is an invasive species and will never be on the at-risk list in North America, it’s still illegal to pick or harvest ANY plant or berry from a park. Foraging can be a lovely way to connect with nature, but it’s important to remain mindful to not harvest or encourage the consumption of trending or at-risk plants.

So look for this crawling green in your or a neighbors backyard! Also, if you’re not 100% on your ID, it's best to leave it be. Consider the health of the environment you plan to harvest, and how it might affect the space or wildlife once you’re gone. Enjoy your backyard adventure!

Vegan Garlic Mustard Pesto

  • 2-3 handfuls of Garlic Mustard (2 bunches)
  • ½ c. pecans (or nuts of choice)
  • 1-3tbs. seeds (chia, sunflower, pepitas)
  • ½-1c. EVOO
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • Salt or Nutritional Yeast to taste.

Soak nuts and seeds in water for 3 hours. This helps with digestion, absorption of ‘NUTrients’, and pesto consistency. Place nuts, seeds, garlic, and washed garlic mustard in the food processor. Gradually add EVOO until desired consistency. Add a little salt or nutritional yeast to taste. Enjoy on pasta, toast, or veggies!

*Please note, harvesting any plant or berry in public parks is illegal. And if you’re not 100% on your plant identification, do not touch it or consume it. Just admire it. :)
We can’t wait to hear about your pesto and backyard finds!

garlic mustard2


Erin Whitney

Erin Whitney

Erin Whitney is a Community Programs Educator at Washington Park. She graduated from UWM where she studied Community Arts. Erin’s enjoyed connecting community members to nature through urban adventures like canoeing the Milwaukee River and hiking with kids to find the most “popping” jewelweed.

When she’s not exploring the parks with school groups, you can find her and her dog, Elliot-Wallace, biking, walking by the river, or gardening their pepper plot. She hopes to get her community excited about all their neighborhood parks and learning what the space can be through listening and sharing together.

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