Jack-by-the-Hedge (Alliaria petiolata)
a.k.a. Garlic Mustard, Poor Mans Mustard...
This plant can be seen on counrty roadsides to the most built up of areas, often poking up through splits in pavements. It has bright green, shiny, kidney shaped leaves when young becoming more pointy with age. They smell of garlic if lightly rubbed.
The young plant carpets the ground, slowly becoming quite tall as it ages. It then produces small white flowers and seed pods, which all have the same mild garlic flavour. This flavour faces away as plant ages, becoming more bitter & less palatable. It then slowly withers away until the following year. So the window to use this plant each year is quite small.
The leaves make ideal sandwich fillers, and if finely chopped they can be added to homemde pesto or mixed with olive oil to make a refreshing salad dressing. Added to soups or even chopped into cream cheese & eaten with bread, there is not an excuse to avoid this plant. The flowers have a punchy flavour and can be added to salads, as can the seed pods. A bonus of this plant is you can enjoy it's flavour but it does not linger on your breath as garlc does.
Medicinally the plant can be used with other herbs to treat a common cold by inducing a sweat. It is known to help free the lung & ease breathing for which, many years ago, they would make a poultice from the leaves & apply it to the chest.
This is a short lived British spring green, well worth getting your hands on!