There are many varieties of wild mustard in Michigan. Dame’s Rocket, Yellow Rocket, Hairy Bittercress, Watercress, Garlic Mustard, etc, etc…. Mustard is a large Family. World wide there are 375 genera and 3200 species. About 55 genera are found in North America. All Mustards are edible, but I like to say not all are eatable. Some are quite bitter but cooking can help tame the bitter. Other Mustards are very palatable and some will remind you of broccoli. There’s a good reason for the flavor similarity. Broccoli is a member of the Mustard Family and was cultivated from Mustard, as were several other common table vegetables. Almost all parts of the species have been developed for food, including the roots of rutabaga and turnips, stems from kohlrabi, leaves of cabbage and collard greens, the flowers from cauliflower and broccoli, the buds from Brussels sprouts and cabbage as well as seeds for oil or condiments. Some have white or purple foliage or flower heads and are grown as ornamental.
Mustards, such as Garlic Mustard and Dames Rocket can be very evasive and pose a legitimate threat to native species. But even the evasive species are packed with Nutrients. As mentioned before, some are choice edibles and are delicious. Young Hairy Bittercress and Watercress are two that are very tasty.
Mustards are a very good beginners plant to start foraging because they are very easy to identify. If there are 4 petals in a basic cross pattern, 4 sepals, 4 tall stamens and 2 short stamens, you have mustard. Even if you have difficulty identifying the exact species, so long as you have those identifiers, you have Mustard.
For complete beginners, I will try to explain those parts a bit. Everyone knows what the petals are, the sepals are the greenish looking petals/leafs that are directly under the petals. When the flower is still a bud, the sepals are what looks like the leafy covering over the petals. The Stamen are the male protrusions that rise from the center. On some flowers you will see a single long protrusion surrounded by shorter ones. The long one in the very center would be the female pistol that if followed all the way down into the flower, leads to the ovaries. I know it’s an ugly drawing, but it shows the parts. If you have any questions please use this link: comment
Get to know Mustard. They are very versatile plants and a great ones to get started on your foraging journey. I highly recommend giving this plant a try.