The next forageable in my Springtime Edibles series is another annual plant that really comes into it’s own in Spring – the wonderfully tangy Hairy Bittercress. If you missed the first installment be sure to check it out here.
Hairy Bittercress is easily identifiable by it’s small rosette of cress-like leaves at the base and hair-like foliage growing from the stems under the small white flowers, which bloom in branched clusters from February – September. This common wildflower is likely growing in your garden right now, but if not don’t fret – you won’t have far to go! Hairy Bittercress is considered a problem weed by many gardeners; it can quickly and efficiently establish itself on any waste ground, alongside paths and walls and even amongst rocks and sand-dunes. The plant can be eaten in it’s entirety, roots (dried and ground for flavoring) and all, but the most common use for Bittercress is the addition of the tangy aboveground foliage and flowers to salads and sandwiches. To harvest this plant simply dig up for the roots – being careful of surrounding plants – or cut away at the base for the foliage and wash before use.
Hairy Bittercress may not sound like the most appetising of foragables but it really does make a cheese butty! In addition to bringing some tasty texture to the table, this little wildflower is also nutritious. It’s a good source of vitamins A and C and also contains beta-carotine, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and glucosinolates – which are known to help with removing cancer causing carcinogens from the body.
With all of these benefits it’s a real shame to be fighting this plant in the garden when we could be happily harvesting and utilising it. The phrase ‘if you can’t beat it, eat it’ suits this plant well!
As always I’d love to hear your foraging tips and recipes – sharing is caring! Leave me a message in the comments, happy foraging! ☺