Living on the hedge
Jack-by-the-hedge, garlic mustard, hedge garlic (alliaria petiolata).
It is unclear where the name ‘Jack by the hedge’ came from, it is thought that it may stem from the slang ‘jacks’ for toilet due to its smell. This seems a little strange as the mild garlicky smell of this plant is quite pleasant. Or Jack may be a reference to the devil as one of it’s other names is ‘devil by the hedge’. This nickname came from the fact that around dusk the garlic smell becomes more noticeable and parents to encourage their children to come home before nightfall would say it was a sign the devil was on the move when the garlic smell was more pronounced and they must get inside.
This plant is totally underrated, a lot of people know what ramsons / wild garlic are but don’t know this hedgerow plant. This is one of my favourite all round edibles, the garlic taste is much more subtle than wild garlic and goes well in sandwiches, stuffed in a fish. In the 14th century it was popular in sauces for lamb and fish.
When does it grow?
In early spring through till Autumn. It is biennial and grows lots of leaves in its first year and goes to seed in its second year.
Where does it grow?
In the UK you will find it growing along the hedge line.
Which part can you eat?
Every part of the plant is edible. The roots are the hottest part and can be loosely compared to horse radish and taste amazing pickled. The leaves are best when they are young and fresh at the beginning of spring, as the season goes on the leaves become more mustardy but acrid.