Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

QUERY: Garlic mustard

Posted on by royvickery |

Although common, conspicuous and widespread garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) has attracted little folklore.

Some 26 names (six of them being variants of Jack-by-the-hedge) are listed on this website’s Local Names page.  Garlic mustard is said to have been a popular potherb in Elizabethan times, and is occasionally collected by foragers, though seems to be rarely, if ever sold at farmers’ markets and similar venues.  Nothing relating to the plant has ever been contributed to Plant-lore Archive.

Does anyone know of any folklore associated with, or additional local names for, hedge garlic.  Please send any comments or information

Response:  Once again David Allen and Gabrielle Hatfield provide useful information in their Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition, 2004: 117.  They suggest that garlic mustard was used as a substitute for garlic (Allium sativum) particularly in cooking, but also medicinally.  Garlic mustard was applied externally to treat sore throats in Kent, chewed to treat sore gums and mouth ulcers in Norfolk, and ‘more surprisingly, though, has been its use for wounds (again in Kent?).’  They speculate that records of garlic mustard being used medicinally might be more prevalent in the ‘south-eastern quarter of England’ because there it was used instead of wild garlic (ramsons, Allium ursinum) which could be found further west.                            However, they give one record of garlic mustard being used outside the southeast, from Somerset, where the leaves were rubbed on feet as a cure for cramp [RV, 8 June 2016].

2.  According to J. Amphlett & C. Rea, The Botany of Worcestershire, 1909: 31:  ‘It had some repute for medicinal virtues in old times and yet in villages its leaves are used as an external remedy for sore throats and also for wounds, and sometimes it is used as a salad’ [RV, 12 January 2017].

Image: Mistley, Essex, April 2022.

Updated 3 April 2023.

  • Upcoming Events

  • Recent Plants

  • Archives