We participated in Canal Pride Days, in part to give back to a park that has provided the Blog so much material. I've blogged about the C&O Canal more than any other local or national park. The 60 or so volunteers gathered just before 9 a.m., and were divided into groups, each assigned a specific task. Jobs varied from planting a garden for the lockhouse to filling in potholes in the parking lot. Our group's job was to pull out garlic mustard, an invasive, non-native plant that has insinuated itself into the flora along the C&O Canal. All things considered, we got off easy!
Had I realized its uses before weeding, I would have put some aside for tonight's dinner. But I only learned of its potential while researching for this post. According to the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area web site, there are a variety of uses for Garlic Mustard. I do have to admit, I enjoyed the garlicky aroma while pulling this weed.
- Young tender leaves can be torn up a bit and added to salads.
- Sautee garlic in olive oil or sesame oil or bacon grease; add chopped garlic mustard and other greens if available (garlic chives, spinach, arugula, lambsquarters, mustard greens, what-have-you); a little salt or soy sauce; add a bit of water or stock and cook gently. A dash of vinegar, balsamic or otherwise, may be in order. Taste and decide. This could be spread on toast, added to casseroles, eggs, quiche, stir-fries, etc.
- Garlic mustard pesto: crush garlic, slice up garlic mustard and also garlic chives if available, puree both in food processor with olive oil and walnuts (or pine nuts); add parmesan cheese. Start the water for pasta!
- Cream sauce: heat 1/4 cup oil and add 1/4 cup flour and cook; add hot milk. Separately cook finely chopped garlic mustard in a little sesame oil; and tamari or soy sauce. Add some of the sauce; puree in food processor and add back to the sauce. Add cheese as desired. Good on stuffed grape leaves for one.
- With leftover garlic mustard sauce, add a little yogurt, balsamic vinegar, and tamari and serve as a sauce for steamed asparagus.
It is an invasive species, so please don't go planting it in your garden. But if you notice a stand of it in the wild, along a road for example, consider harvesting it (root and all, to prevent it from continuing to propagate) and using it in cooking. Although we did our best to eliminate it from the old railroad bed along the Canal in Williamsport, there is still plenty to be found there.
In addition, as a model of a largely intact riparian (riverside) forest buffer, the canal provides an incomparable scenic amenity. Potomac Conservancy has long called the Potomac River the “wildest urban river in the world” thanks to the abundance of trees found up and down the river corridor. Both Scenic Maryland and Scenic America have identified the Potomac River corridor, and the C&O Canal NHP, as a scenic treasure requiring constant public vigilance to protect it from potential encroachments.
"The island in the parking lot looks amazing, our visitor center has a shiny new floor paint, the garden at Lockhouse 44 looks lovely, and I don't think we left behind any Garlic Mustard within a mile of Cushwa Basin! Our park employees are very grateful for the wonderful cleaning job that was done in the Trolley Barn, Museum and Lockhouse 44, and our visitors can drive safer now that all of the potholes at Cushwa Basin are filled in!" said Josh Whitman, C&O Canal Trust volunteer coordinator, summing up all the work. "All of [the volunteers] did an amazing job!"
For more about the C&O Canal at Williamsport, click here. Click here to read an interview with Josh Whitman.
When: This year Canal Pride Days took place on:
Saturday, April 23, 2016: Great Falls
Saturday, May 7, 2016: Hancock
Saturday, May 7, 2016: Lock 75
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