Hairy Bittercress – cardamine hirsuta

hairy bittercress on a plate Hairy bittercress close up

This is a lovely little plant with delicate flowers, but its appearance is deceptive: it delivers a peppery, cress-like, rockety tang.

Roger Phillips describes it as “the first worthwhile edible plant to be found at the beginning of the year”, but I’ve only just spotted it in the area this week. I found it sprouting on the pathside at our allotments – allotments are great places to keep an eye out for useful weeds, particularly as your plot neighbours will often thank you removing them, and bittercress does like to colonise bare soil. They will be particularly thankful given that bittercress seed pods explode, sending around 500 seeds up to a metre away. You can also find them in town, growing from pavements – if you’re happy that it’s not a contaminated spot, go for it.

They’re easy to spot, with their little fingers pointing skywards and forming a crown for the small white flowers. Below is a rosette of leaves forming the base of the plant (not pictured above). Like Garlic Mustard, this is a cabbage relative.

Another good forage for beginners, this – so small, it’s good practice at getting your eye in; the flavour is a great reward, and it’s got a good selection of features to help identify it and so to practise the art of identification.

As for recipes, there’s not a great deal out there, as the consensus seems to be that simply enjoying it raw and unadulterated is best, and no let-down. But there is a suggestion out there for bittercress pesto. A recipe on Celtnet has combined it with, er, pan-braised squirrel.

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2 thoughts on “Hairy Bittercress – cardamine hirsuta

  1. Best eaten finely chopped, with added raisins for fussy eaters.
    Good luck with the blog, keep it up, try adding pictures to the twitter feed too…

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