Jack by the Hedge

There are quite a number of plants I greet with enthusiasm during spring, and one of my favourites would have to be Jack by the Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) with its delightful garlic fragrance and flavour.  Found growing all over the place near here, it seems to like semi shaded areas, near hedgerows, walls, the roots of trees and places like that.

Jack by the Hedge growing by the roots of the horse chestnut on the front lawn...

I’ve enjoyed the odd leaf from the herb from time to time, but never done much with it in the kitchen, and have decided that this year, that is going to have to change.  This delightfully bright green plant deserves to have a lot more fuss made of it!  I’m planning a batch of nettle and jack by the hedge soup in the near future, plus I have a recipe for jack by the hedge pesto that I am rather excited about trying – when I get around to having a go at these two, I’ll post the recipes, promise!  Today, though, I decided to make a herbal vinegar with the fresh plant.

Jack by the Hedge after being chopped thoroughly with a rather scary looking knife... amazing how much it reduces the herb down being chopped this way!

Infused vinegars are ridiculously easy to make, which is good because my brain has not been functioning on full capacity today, so easy is preferred.  Simply chop hell out of the herb, toss into a jar and top up with the vinegar of your choice.  I used the tail end of a bottle of white wine vinegar this time.  Next time I may use balsamic, just for a change – I have the feeling the flavour would work very well with the garlicky kick of chopped Jack.  (I am too lazy to want to type out Jack by the Hedge every time I refer to the plant, so from now on its going to just be called Jack – sorry about that!)   I’m going to leave this particular jar infusing in the cupboard for a couple of weeks, then filter it and use it to make awe inspiring salad dressings.   I’m pretty sure this herb will work very nicely with new potatoes and butter, as well.

Jack, close up picture. Look how pretty this plant is! Later on it will have tiny white flowers.

A member of the brassica family, Jack is very high in vitamin c, making it a good spring cleaning herb used alongside nettle, chickweed and cleavers.  It can also be used as a vulnerary, as a poultice of the fresh herb (if you can stand the smell, anyway!)   Taken internally it improves the circulation and can be used to reduce infections.  The garlic smell is due to the presence of allyl isothiocyanates, which are present in leeks, garlic, onions and chives as well (no surprise there, eh??)  I’d be interested to see how it compares to garlic in terms of usefulness for things like blood pressure – if I find any more information on this, I will post about it, rest assured.

Now I’m off to make a pasta salad with loads of chopped Jack in. 😉

4 thoughts on “Jack by the Hedge

    1. I would suggest that you don’t risk it, honestly – are you allergic to all the allium family or just certain ones? At the moment I would suggest that you steer clear of it just to be safe!

  1. just want to say thanks for all the wonderful and interesting posts…..thankyou.
    and i expect jack shall be lovely combined with your home produced cider vinegar

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts! Yes, I rather suspect Jack will go beautifully with the cider vinegar – may well make a good infused oil as well, though it will need drying first as an oil made with fresh herb will not last long – maybe finely chopped Jack in olive oil as a dipping sauce…?

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