The first year, the invasive species garlic mustard looks like a violet, says Jacqueline Pilette, wetlands specialist with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
The next year, however, the biannual invasive plants shoots up, flowers and produces seeds.
"Basically, it produces a ton of seeds," Pilette said. "Thousands of seeds from one plant, and they can scatter pretty far from the plant — up to a few meters."
It begins its life as that violet-like rosette, and grows throughout the summer season. The young mustard overwinters, and in May or June of the following year, blooms as an adult. When it flowers, it produces tiny white, four-petaled flowers. Then, it seeds out and dies.
The invasive species has actually a trifecta of a sort of plant talents that allow it to grow thick throughout forest floors. Garlic mustard grows well in the dark understories of forests, and it produces a chemical that inhibits the growth of other native plants.
"You don't get that understory growth of native plants," said Pilette. "It just perpetuates itself."
As part of its Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant, the tribal Natural Resources Department established the first garlic mustard removal days during the spring of 2012.
Pilette and a crew of volunteers roved the lower Bear River corridor — garlic mustard is established at least from Sheridan Street down to the mouth of the Bear River — and removed more than 20 garbage bags full of the weed.
"Once we realized how extensive it was," Pilette said, she rounded up volunteers for a day of the species removal.
To successfully remove the plant, you must pull it year after year, or treat a stand of it every year with an herbicide that contains glyphosate.
But efforts must be continuous, Pilette said. Seeds can remain dormant in soil for up to five years — perhaps even longer.
"People who are working with garlic mustard in the Upper Peninsula say up to 10 years," she said. "They keep coming back so you have to stay on it. It has to be long-term work."
Homeowners with garlic mustard growing in their backyards also should avoid composting the weeds. Their seeds can withstand the heat of composting, and disposing or using the compost can just re-seed the plants, Pilette said.
Meet with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians for their Bear River Recreation Area Garlic Mustard Volunteer Days from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, and at the same time Tuesday and Wednesday, May 21-22. Meet at the Mineral Well Park near the Bear River in Petoskey.
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The Kalamazoo Nature Center in Kalamazoo collected a booklet of recipes, called "Garlic Mustard: From Pest to Pesto," featuring the plant.
2 cups garlic mustard greens with the stems
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic mustard root
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup pine nuts
Salt to taste
Put everything into a food processor and blend until smooth. Cook your favorite pasta and toss with pesto mixture while the pasta is hot. Garnish lightly with Parmesan cheese if desired. Add salt to taste.
Minestrone e zuppa
2 cups fava beans (dried)
2 cups great northern beans (dried)
1 1/2 gallon of water
4 large onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
2 pounds savoy cabbage, cut into one-inch squares
6-8 ounces cleaned garlic mustard leaves, cut into strips
Parmesan cheese to taste
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Place fava beans in medium sauce pan, and place great northern beans in a large bowl. Add enough cold water to each to cover by 3 inches. Allow to sit overnight.
Bring fava beans to boil in their soaking liquid. Boil five minutes, drain and set aside to cool. Using a small knife, make a slit in the skin of each bean, peal off outer skins and discard.
Drain the great northern beans. Bring the measured water to boil in a large pot, add beans, onion, carrot and celery.
Partially cover and simmer over medium heat until beans are half cooked, about 30 minutes. Add cabbage and garlic mustard, partially cook until beans are fully cooked — about another 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh grated Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil.