One of the best ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is to go wild. Wild vegetables are not only free but are as nutritious if not more nutritious than store bought vegetables. Foraging for food also makes hiking a lot more fun.
The wild vegetable pictured above is called Garlic Mustard(Alliaria petiolata), since it is a type of mustard with a garlicy kind of taste to it. Since it is a member of the totally awesome brassicaceae family(sometimes called the “cruciferous”, “mustard”, or “cabbage” family), it is closely related to kale, cabbage, and broccoli and likely has similar health benefits. Like other members of the cruciferous vegetable group, its small flowers are in the shape of a cross, which is why they are called cruciferous. Cruciferous vegetables are well-known for their naturally occurring anti-cancer chemicals. It’s like getting free cabbage!
The leaves of Garlic Mustard, also known as Jack-by-the-hedge, are triangular to heart-shaped and 10cm to 15 cm long. The entire plant generally grows to 30cm to 100 cm. It grows in moist soil in woodlands, on the edges of woodlands, in fields, and especially in or near floodplains. It often grows near skunk cabbage and jewelweed, though usually on slightly higher ground. Garlic Mustard is common throughout eastern North America. Since it is an invasive species from Eurasia, you can harvest it without guilt.
Like its cousins broccoli and kale, it is loaded with health-promoting phyto-chemicals and minerals. If you want to harvest some, make sure you do it in an area far away from busy highways and also make sure there were never any toxic waste dumps nearby.
I grabbed about half a bag’s worth of the mustard from the woods near me, brought it home and washed a small portion of it thoroughly in the sink. I boiled it very briefly and mixed it with marinara sauce. It sure does shrink from cooking! It was so delicious with the spaghetti and soy protein(TVP). It really adds a lot of taste and nutrition. You can also use it as a salad green. I highly recommend it!