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Garlic mustard memories

By KARRIE McALLISTER Columnist Published: April 22, 2017 5:00 AM

There are times when you try to force yourself to make memories, and sometimes they just happen when you're least expecting it.

It was a Sunday. We went to church and stopped at a family member's house to see the new kitchen and have a cup of coffee before going home. I stepped out of the car and the weather was so perfect, like spring and summer shook hands and said, "Let's give the people what they want."

The trees were covered in buds, and our backyard, which spends most of its warm days in deep-forested shade, was bright. The midday sun among the trunks is a rare and beautiful thing, so I knew that's where I wanted to be -- back between the trees and frolicking in the luscious new crop of garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard is everywhere in our backyard, like it is in most places. If you don't know what it is, go to a wooded area and look for stalks of green with tiny white flowers and heart-shaped leaves that smell like, you guessed it, mustardy garlic. It grows like crazy, so fast and so furious that it shades out all of the other plants around it. Not a very kind thing to do, if you ask me.

This perennial herb is also an invasive plant. Brought over from Europe in the late 1800s, probably for food and medicinal purposes, it grows and spreads and spreads. You could feed an army on garlic mustard salads from my yard alone, I think. And while I try to see the value in all of nature, I also love to rip this stuff out of the ground on a perfect spring afternoon.

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So there we were, my whole family, outfitted with shoes on our feet and plastic bags in our hands. "Don't stop until you've filled a bag!" I chimed, and we all went to work. I never even changed out of my Sunday dress.

There's something about watching your family work together in the sunshine, prickers scratching your legs and arms as you reach around thorn bushes to yank out a never-ending supply of invasives, the sweet but pungent smell of garlic in the air. Did they complain? Yes. Did they ask a dozen times if they were done? Yes. Is there a chance someone will end up with poison ivy? Most definitely. (It will be me, I'm sure.) But was it a great reminder that even the simplest of moments are worthy of remembering? Without a doubt.

Good thing garlic mustard is so hard to control. We'll get to have another picking session before I know it.


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