How a Kitchener chef is cooking his way through an invasive plant
WATERLOO -- Invasive garlic mustard plants can be found all across Ontario right now.
Although invasive and harmful to other plants, they can be delicious to eat.
Retired University of Waterloo environmental studies professor Roger Suffling showed CTV News around Kitchener’s Westwood Park, where many mature Garlic Mustard Plants are visible.
“They have their name for a reason,” Suffling said of the plant that smells of garlic and tastes much like mustard.
The invasive plant, however, needs to go because it contains a chemical that harms other plants.
Most plants that are native to Ontario are good neighbours, Suffling said.
"They have fungi growing on their roots and they play this exchange game. I'll give you sugar if you give me minerals," he said.
But Suffling says the invasive plant essentially doesn’t play well with others.
“Garlic mustard moves in there and says, 'I’ll do better than that, I’ll kill your fungi and then I’ve got control over you because now you can't eat,'” he said.
The Ontario Invasive Plant Council's spokesperson Brittany Finigan says garlic mustard is active throughout the province, which is a problem.
“We would recommend that you start taking immediate action to eradicate these," she said.
Finigan says proper disposal of the plant means taking it entirely out of the ground and isolating it directly into a green bag to make sure the seeds do not spread or fall on the grass.
“Grip the plant from the base of the stem, pull it gently to remove as much of a root as possible to prevent that plant from re-growing,” she said, adding it’s important not to store the disposed of plant in an outdoor compost bin because it may infect the rest of the contents.
Although garlic mustard is harmful to other plants, one Kitchener chef says it pairs well with many dishes.
“It is a completely invasive weed, that is delicious as well,” caterer and Conestoga College culinary professor Steve Allen said. “It really has a garlicky smell. That mustard taste though really comes through."
Allen often forages for ingredients and spices to use at his Cambridge catering business, a specialty he learned as a young chef.
“In my late teens and early 20s I worked with a lot of great chefs that came from Europe and they are really into a foraging culture there," he said.
Allen recently made a few different condiments using garlic mustard he gathered himself.
“Last week I made wild garlic mustard, olive oil and pumpkin seed pesto which was just raved about," he said.
Experts are reminding the public not to forage the forest unless you are properly trained to identify plants in safe spaces like Allen is.