For the past few years, I’ve been battling a particularly pernicious weed. I’ve never known the name of this weed, I just know that once it has set seed it is impossible to remove it from the garden without shooting seeds everywhere. Let me rephrase that…it shoots seeds EVERYWHERE!
I recently learned a few things about this plant, including the fact that it is delicious. Called variously, hairy bittercress, land cress, flick weed and shot weed; this annual (sometimes biennial) plant is native to Europe and Asia. The official name is Cardamine hirsuta and it has done an amazing job of colonizing North America.
Cardamine Hirsuta’s Nutritional Benefits
Whatever you may think about the plant itself…and it does have a certain delicate charm…there is no denying that is is nutritious. Cardamine hirsuta contains Vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. In traditional herbal medicine it has been used as a diuretic or expectorant. Who knew?
But you may be asking, “How does it taste?” Hairy bittercress is a cress, so not surprisingly it takes like watercress. By that I mean a pleasantly bitter taste. Lots of folks compare hairy bittercress to arugula, but to my palate hairy bittercress lacks the strong peppery taste of arugula. From some of the reading I’ve done, the peppery taste may increase as the weather gets warmer, just as it does with radishes.
I’ve been wondering if I could grow watercress. But true watercress really wants to have a source of running water (like a stream) in order to grow well. And I don’t have a stream in my backyard. I’m starting to think that hairy bittercress may be a good alternative.
Harvesting Hairy Bittercress
Today at lunchtime I decided to add hairy bittercress to my salad. I simply went out to the backyard, loosened the roots and brought the entire plant back into the kitchen. A few minutes later the roots and a few yellowed leaves were in the compost, and the rinsed cress was in my salad.
This may become my go-to method for weeding this plant from my garden. My only concern is that I may not eat it fast enough to stay ahead of the blossoms and seeds. Hairy bittercress grows throughout the winter here in the Pacific Northwest. Even though it is only February, this tiny, delicious nuisance is already in flower. So in the interest of inspiring myself to harvest and eat as much of this crop (notice, it’s no longer a weed) as possible, I’m trying to compile as many recipes as possible. If you have any serving suggestions or recipes please feel free to post in the comment area below. Here are few ideas that come to my mind.
- Salad of hairy bittercress, roasted beets and goat cheese with a balsamic dressing.
- Wilted hairy bittercress in a frittata
- In place of sprouts or arugula in a sandwich
- Using it like arugula and topping a pizza with it