The tiny white cluster of flowers you see perched
atop a long, green stem (a foot to more than 3 feet) probably is one of
many strains of wild mustard. It could be something else, but I don’t know
Actually, there are thousands of strains and
species of mustard in the world, and a few in this country, including the
most common, black mustard. Others are classified as wildflowers.
Ordinarily, the flowers of mustard are bright
yellow and dominate at this time of year in fallow fields and along roadsides.
This, though, may be a white mustard, which originated in Mediterranean
Europe and elsewhere.
I am not (thankfully) seeing it every place I
go, but where it is present, it seems to be trying to rout other forms
of vegetation. I guess, for lack of a better word, it might have to be
called “invasive.” I do not like that word because this plant occupies
a niche on this earth and probably has a purpose--culinary.
The flower is four-petaled, white, and appears
to have a tiny, yellow, disc-like center. Bare seedpods (about 2 inches
long) grow out of the stem below the flower. One or more miniature white
flowers top every appendage, and tiny seedpods two inches or more long
hug the stem immediately below the flowers. Seedpods grow progressively
shorter as they approach the flower.
Leaves are rather heart shaped and alternately
veined on the back side. Lower leaves are much larger (as much as
four inches long) and grow smaller at the top of the plant.
The best method of killing the plant is to pull
it (roots and all) when the earth is wet. It springs up from seed. Its
roots are a few inches in diameter with a six-inch tap-type root from which
many tentacles grow. Root systems are rather round.
I have not eaten leaves or stems, but grew up
eating mustard greens. Some are said to be poisonous.
In this spring when morel mushrooms appear to
be scarce as hen’s teeth, I’m now finding pokeweed
and stinging nettle poking up through
the earth in the central part of the state. So the smorgasbord of wild
still is on.
If stinging nettle has not yet graced your table,
a very good application is achieved by cooking the tender spring leaves
with a touch of onion, chopped bacon, and wild or domestic mushrooms (chopped
fine). But, as difficult as it may be, don’t eat them . . . yet.
Instead, drain the dish, stir in an egg, roll
them in patties dredged in finely rolled Club Crackers and flour, and fry
them to a golden brown. If you like, cover the patties on plate with a
light gravy or cheese of your choice, or both.
You’ll be glad spring came.
Marcus of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, a resident of Greenwood,
recently graduated from the National Conservation Leadership Institute
(NCLI), an intense seven-month experience designed to address one of the
nation’s most significant conservation challenges—preparing and retaining
Marcus was one of 36 in the nation chosen for
the second NCLI class, which culminated in April 2008. The class included
21 state fish and wildlife employees, six federal conservation agency employees,
one industry employee, and eight nongovernmental agency employees, who
worked together during the past seven months on priority leadership challenges
The DNR Division of Forestry (DoF) draft environmental
assessment of the forest management program on state forests is posted
on the DoF Web site for public comment and review over a 60-day period.
The document, titled “Increased Emphasis on Management
and Sustainability of Oak-Hickory Communities on the Indiana State Forest
System,” is at http://dnr.IN.gov/forestry/6407.htm. Anyone unable to access
the document online may request a copy from the State Forester, 402 W.
Washington Room W-296, Indianapolis 46204 or by calling 317-232-4105 (not
toll free). Review copies also are available at all state forest property