Garlic Mustard, Wild-Edibles, Cancer-Cure, Lacto-Fermentation for your dog and cat, and More!

Now is the time of year, when we all get excited about the outdoors! We have been huddled up inside with our pets for months during the yin contractive, yet restorative hibernation season. However, the days are longer and warmer and green buds and shoots are popping out everywhere in this yang, expansive time. It is a GREAT time of year to observe, nibble, and harvest wild plants and their potent food-medicine for you and your pets!

These young plants are full of tender, vital energy, Qi, and innumerable, highly digestible phytonutrients. Up here, in Floyd, VA at 2500 ft elevation, we are seeing robust clumps of soft GARLIC MUSTARD, Alliaria petiolata now. The combination of its behavior as an invasive, ecological misfit plant and its incredible health profile, make it the perfect plant to harvest. There is so much now that is tender, that it makes sense to preserve it for use all summer, when it is tougher and all winter, when it retreats to its roots in the ground. It can easily be dried in a solar dehydrator and stored in glass jars or plastic bags, however, I never seem to get around to using it this way, simply because it appears less appetizing dried. It could make a good tea this way, but who really wants to drink a garlic tea. Well, this is where our animals come in. The compounds that this plant produces, is a pest deterrent. Small amounts of this tea (2oz per 30lbs daily) can be mixed into your pets food or even sprayed on her coat to deter fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, assuming you can tolerate the odor. Alternatively, the plant can be lightly steamed and frozen for later use in your pet’s or your food (up to 5% of volume daily). Optimally, and most environmentally sound (no cooking or freezing required), garlic mustard can be chopped finely and submerged in “real salt” brine in a glass or ceramic container and left to ferment for 4 to 14 days, depending on one’s taste. The longer it goes, the more lacto-fermentation happens, which means greater numbers of gut-healing lactobacilli bacteria, greater digestibility to you and your pet, and greater numbers of nourishing bacterial by-products in the brine. However, it will become more sour, which means it is less palatable or more of a condiment. I have not tasted this particular ferment yet, but packed a quart jar full last night. Read about the edibility and precautions of garlic mustard below.

If you do not find garlic mustard where you live, no worries, you are almost guaranteed this time of year to find succulent young chickweed!! It grows so forcefully now above the slower-to-emerge grass, that it is a cinch to harvest in big, juicy handfuls. It could even be juiced for you or your pet. However, you would miss out on the great volume of insoluble fiber that way. In addition, juicing comes in most handy when consuming vegetable grown on old, malnourished farm soils, who’s trace minerals have long-since petered-out. Wild plants do not need to be consumed or fed in such volume for health benefits.

Other good wild, moist, and tasty spring plants to throw into your ferment (or pesto!) are dandelion leaves, spicebush flower buds, wild garlic (aka spring onions), field mustards, cleavers (woo-hoo lymphatic drainage!), the tiny, delicious wintergreen-flavored violets (yes, the whole plant is a blood purifier and cancer remedy) and much, much more. Believe it or not, if you are making it just for you dog or cat, include grasses! Yes, you have seen them forage on their own anyway. You may have even grown grass inside for you cat. You may have even seen your dog eat a wild animal, which probably had fermented grass in its gut!

Of course, organic, store-bought kale, turnips, parsnips, carrots, of course cabbage and much more are great too! I encourage experimentation! Try using kelp powder instead of sea salt for a super-packed pet food addition. Try adding turmeric, ginger, or fresh garlic (1 average clover per 30lbs daily IS SAFE!) or whatever healthy spice or plant calls to you.

Just remember when fermenting to use “real salt” or maybe himalayan or celtic sea salt. Never use table salt or refined sea salt. “Real Salt” is a great company and is sourced at the very least in the US. (If you are reading this in asia, it is more ecologically sound to purchase himalayan salt, and Celtic sea salt in Europe.)  In any case, salt to taste. The salinity of sea water is a good taste to aim for. Also, when fermenting, try to keep all the solids beneath the brine surface and refrigerate or root cellar the mixture, when you are happy with the taste/acidity. See my post on fermenting foods for dogs and cats for more information!

You are so much better off making a ferment than purchasing probiotics. It is much more environmentally sound (no plastic bottle waste and much less processing and transport fossil fuel use) and is MUCH MORE effective at establishing a healthy gut microbiome. It is also almost free, particularly if you use wild plants.

All of these wild plants are super-super-foods to be respected. When they are fermented, they become superfied to the third power. They are tools in preventing and fighting (or living a quality life with) cancer. They are “cleansing and detoxifying” in addition to being anti-inflammatories, anti-fungals, anti-bacterials, and anti-virals. Use them wisely and always leave an abundance of wild-foraged foods behind to reproduce for the following season. In addition, be sure to positively identify any plant before preparing it for consumption. If you are not 100% sure what you are looking at, be sure to confirm with an expert.

Cats do not need as much fiber or phytonutrient content in their diet. Maybe 10%. Dogs can eat up to 30%! (Try to give them at least 10%.) Introduce GRADUALLY to avoid any gastric upset. Also, if you use wild garlic in your ferment, I would only use what would amount to 1 small marble-sized bulb or 2 medium-sized chives per 30 lbs of dog daily, since no safe dose is established in dogs or cats. I would avoid its use in cats, because of their sensitivity and its potency.

*Read here or here for more about the edibility of garlic mustard and the low cyanide level in it. In fact, cyanide (from apricot seeds) has been used to cure cancer. For more on that topic, just search cyanide and cancer or read more here. If you are still not convinced about the safety of garlic mustard, just be sure to feed it in low proportions or… ferment it! Acids, such as the lactic acid in fermented veggies may greatly reduce this already low level of cyanide. I would recommend using this plant more as a condiment, if used daily. That means no more than 5% of daily intake.


Dr. Perrin Heartway