Synonyms: Brassica kaber Other names: garlock, runch Nomenclature: arvensis = in meadows Nativity / Invasiveness: introduced plant, weed
General: simple to freely branched annual 30-100 cm tall, very leafy, stiff- to bristly-hairy from overall to mainly on the lower portion of the stems.
Leaves: alternate, ovate to obovate in outline, the lower ones about 10-15 cm long, stalked, with 1-3 very unequal lobes near the base and the rest of the blade a large end leaflet, coarsely to finely toothed. The upper ones smaller, short- to non-stalked.
Flowers: numerous in dense, compounded clusters, as much as 30 cm long. Flower stalks stout, 2-6 mm long, erect or ascending. The 4 sepals 4-5 mm long, narrowly oblong, spreading, the edges rolled in. The 4 petals showy, spatulate, 8-14 mm long, the narrow, erect claw about half the length of the petal.
Fruits: pods, 4-5 cm long, about 2 mm broad, hairless or somewhat short-hairy, straight or slightly upcurved, the flattened beak 1/3-1/2 as long as the valves and similarly rather evidently 3-nerved. Seeds 7-12, about 2 mm long, with fine honey-comb patterns.
A weedy plant, mostly in disturbed areas, in many parts of MT. Native of Europe, often abundant in various parts of N. America.
The leaves of charlock mustard are edible raw or cooked. Somewhat hot, the young leaves are used as a flavoring in salads, where they add a piquant flavor. Older leaves are used as a potherb. It is best to use just the young shoots and leaves in the spring, older leaves are bitter. The flowering stems are edible cooked. A pleasant, cabbage/radish flavor, they can be used as a broccoli substitute before the flowers open. The stems should be lightly steamed for no more than 5 minutes. The flowers can also be cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish. The seed can be sprouted and eaten raw. A hot flavor, it can be added to salads and sandwiches. The seed can be ground into a powder and used as a food flavoring. It has a hot mustard flavor. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.
The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Black depression', 'Melancholia' and 'Gloom'.
An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. It is also used in making soap and burns well so it can be used for lighting. The plant is cultivated extensively in Europe for these purposes.