Imagine, a nutritious salad ingredient just for the picking.
Ontario is filled with invasive species that have been released accidentally or deliberately. Alliaria petiolata, a native European plant was brought to North America in the 19th Century by settlers who liked its garlic taste and medicinal properties. It’s an evergreen that grows quite tall and since its natural enemies didn’t come along for the ride, Alliaria petiolata, positively thrives. It is better known as garlic mustard, poor man’s mustard or in the U.K., as Jack-by-the-hedge.
It can be used as a salad ingredient and is high in vitamins A and C. As the name suggests, it has a garlic flavour and apparently the small black seeds it produces are sprinkled on foods as a flavouring in France.
Like most invasive species, it looks as if we are stuck with this one and it’s not shy. It produces huge numbers of seeds and aggressively crowds out other plants; the lack of natural predators giving it an unfair advantage. To add insult to injury, deer avoid it, preferring native plants. It is therefore a real threat to native plants throughout Raymore Park and has spread rapidly in the park in the past few years. Eradicating it would require large numbers of people to cut it back regularly so that seeds cannot form and spread. A mammoth and probably futile task.
There is a glimmer of hope. U.S. scientists are looking to Europe where garlic mustard has several predators that keep it in check. The hope is that through painstaking research, they can find one or more that will not threaten other flora and fauna once introduced. The prime candidate is a weevil, Ceutorhynchus scrobicollis, that feeds exclusively on GM and therefore will not be a threat to anything else.
In the meantime, salad anyone?