Monday, May 12, 2008

Garlic Mustard Imponderables

Pulling garlic mustard is a relatively easy but time consuming activity. It's great for being outside, getting into a meditative, zen-like state as you rip living plants from the ground (how's that for oxymoronic?), and letting your mind wander. I asked, and in some cases answered, a lot of questions about our garlic mustard infestation while performing my penance for neglecting the back end of our lot. I don't think I've spent as much time on my hands and knees since celebrating my 21st birthday on New Year's Eve with my college buddies and a bottle of Absolut.

That image aside, through my Socratic dialogue with myself I discovered the following tidbits of information. While this is essentially subjective and free of any supporting evidence, I'm operating under the Golden Rule of Talk Radio: if you repeat it enough, it will be true.

I first discovered that answering even the most basic question of how many plants are growing on our property is near impossible. Top mathematicians at Cal Tech, collaborating with botanists at the Max Plank Institute, have calculated the population density is effectively immeasurable due to the constant production of new plants at a variable rate, determined by how long you look at an individual plant and how many you attempt to pull.

One of the invaders. The flowers look so innocent, but the
havoc wreaked by their loins in almost unimaginable. And
before you ask, no, I'm not sure that plants have loins.

With that understanding of their population dynamics, here's what I surmised on my own experience on pulling garlic mustard:
  • Laid end to end, the plants pulled on our property would stretch from our house to the El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico (1,775.77 miles).
  • You can burn 280 Calories/hour pulling garlic mustard.
  • You can drink 8.25 helmet-mounted beers while pulling garlic mustard before you succumb to the need to lie down for a nap.
  • Although garlic mustard is non-toxic, and in fact makes a tolerable pesto, you will be enjoying the flavor on everything you eat no matter how many times you wash your hands. That's fine when eating pasta, salads, or beans-and-rice dishes, but not so delicious when eating breakfast cereals, chocolate, or drinking wine.
  • If converted for use as biofuel, garlic mustard would generate enough power to heat/cool our house, run all of our appliances, and recharge the batteries in the remotes, or the camera, for a full lunar month.
  • If left as a pile in the backyard it would be visible from space and could be used in the nests of the 1,500 American Robins that have claimed our neighborhood as their breeding territory.
  • If left to dry like straw, and if this were a fairy tale along the lines of the "Three Little Pigs," you could build a research facility with office space for a staff of 75, four conference rooms (with video-conferencing capabilities) and facilities to house a GIS lab, a server room, and workstations for two dozen graduate students.
  • If Red Knots would change their dietary requirements and time their migration a bit differently, their population would be exploding, not declining.
Or, maybe what we need is a different mindset. Garlic mustard simply needs a new PR strategy.

Instead of being the vilified invasive plant, it could once again be heralded as the culinary herb it once was. To rip off comedian Brian Regan, garlic mustard should hire the same marketing guy cranberries did. Look how a dwarf, evergreen shrub growing in acidic bogs with bitter tasting berries established itself as producing a "superfruit," and then the marketers got into it.

"Hey, you got some apples? Put some cranberries in there. We’ll call it cran-apple and go 50-50. You got grapes? How about cran-grape! You got mango? Cran-mangos! You got pork chops? Cran-chops!"

The possibilities for garlic mustard are endless. Seriously, take garlic mustard pesto as a starter recipe, then feel free to contribute your own ideas.

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