Hedge Garlic - Alliaria petiolata

Main features

  • Biennial

  • Basal rosette of kidney-shaped, toothed leaves in year one

  • Leaves in year-two are heart-shaped and toothed

  • Crushed leaves smell mildly of garlic

  • Likes moist dappled shade, with the support of a tree, hedge, hedgerow or fence

  • Small white flowers with four petals

  • Long, thin seed pods after flowering

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Hedge Garlic - Alliaria petiolata

Edible plant - novice

Other common names: Jack-by-the-Hedge, Garlic Mustard, Poor Man’s Mustard, Garlic Root, Penny Hedge, Sauce Alone, Mustard Root, Garlic Wort, Jack-in-the-Bush


Scientific name meaning: Alliaria is Latin in origin and means "resembling an allium". This is in reference to Hedge-garlic's garlic-like smell. Petiolata means having a long leaf stalk, such as this plant's basal leaves

Habitat - where will I find it? Hedge Garlic, or Jack-by-the-Hedge, likes dappled shade, moisture, and something to support it. It can be found on woodland edges, and beside fences, hedgerows and hedges.

It is a native of Europe, Africa and Asia, and listed as an invasive species in North America

Description - what does it look like? Hedge garlic is a biennial plant, meaning it has a two-year growth cycle.

During year one, it forms a basal rosette of kidney-shaped leaves with toothed edges.

In year two, the leaves become more heart-shaped, but remain toothed. During this year, it throws up a flower stalk with a cluster of white four-petalled (cruciform) flowers at the top. 

The leaves have a mild garlic odour when they are crushed.

After pollination, the flowers are replaced by long, thin seed pods.

Hedge Garlic is a mustard and therefore a brassica

Possible lookalikes Hedge Garlic could easily be confused with Honesty (Lunaria annua), before either are in flower. However, Honesty is also edible. After flowering, Honesty has purple flowers, whilst Hedge Garlic has white flowers.

The seed pods of Hedge Garlic are long and thin, whereas Honesty has large disc-shaped seed pods.

Honesty also lacks the garlic scent of Hedge Garlic.

Use as a food The leaves and flowers of Hedge Garlic can be used raw in salads, or lightly steamed. Some people get a strong unpleasant taste after a few seconds of chewing the leaves. However, a dressing usually cuts through any overpowering flavour.

The flowers can be sprinkled through a salad for added visual interest and mild flavouring.

After Hedge Garlic has flowered, the seeds can be used as a mustard-flavoured spice or seasoning. They can also be used to make a rustic wholegrain mustard

Use in herbal medicine Hedge Garlic contains mustard oil glycosides and has been used in the treatment of asthma, eczema, bronchitis, and skin irritation.

It has also bee used to treat scurvy and parasitic infestations, to heal wounds, and induce sweating. Chewing the leaves is believed to relieve mouth ulcers, while a powder made from the seeds has been used to encourage sneezing.

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards People who suffer from hypothyroidism are advised against excessive consumption of members of the brassica family. Hedge Garlic is a brassica

Importance to other species Hedge Garlic, or Jack-by-the-Hedge, is on of the main food sources for the caterpillars of the Orange-Tip Butterfly

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!