Hairy Bittercress

How's that for a name?

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 So unfortunately named!


Hairy bittercress - - 

One of the best early greens, it's really not hairy, and it's hardly bitter.  


Reminiscent of water cress but milder in flavor, hairy bittercress is a super nutritious edible.  It deserves a place at the table.


But this plant needs a PR makeover!

A super green!

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 Despised by many gardeners as a weed, this plant does "grow like a weed".


But for those who know it's real value, hairy bittercress is a prime foraging find in the late winter months.


It's in the same category as kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.... the healthy cruciferous vegetables of the mustard family.

Even in winter

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 When I see hairy bittercress 

popping up all around me 

in late winter I’m like 

“Ahhhh… let the foraging begin!!”   

To me, it’s nature’s signal that a new foraging cycle has begun.


   It will suddenly appear in lawns, flower beds, along paths, even in cracks where not much should grow. 


And the window of opportunity for this plant is small.  As spring warms up, hairy bittercress is gone.

To identify

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 Notice how the stems radiate out from a central point?


This circular arrangement of leaves is called a basal rosette.


Each stem has pairs of small roundish leaflets along its length.


 The terminal leaflet is the largest. 


It really is a pretty little plant.  



Leaves and flowers

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Very soon after the rosette appears, a flower stalk will arise from the center, bearing tiny white flowers.


Each flower has 4 petals arranged in the shape of a cross.  


This cross configuration gives the group its alternate family name, “Cruciferae”.


Cruciferous vegetables are celebrated for their phytochemical content and health-giving properties.


Seeds

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Hairy bittercress flowers become little exploding seedpods. 


Hence the nickname, shotweed.  


This is a very effective method of seed dispersal.



Harvest and eat

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Although a bit more tender before it's flowers appear,  hairy bittercress is edible through its whole life cycle.


Great raw in salads!

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Spinach strawberry salad with 4 foraged greens added.  Can you see the wild ones? 

 

There’s hairy bittercress, and also some chickweed, garlic mustard, and a few mock strawberry leaves.


Except for store-bought spinach and strawberries, a great winter-foraged salad!!

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Hairy Bittercress... washed and ready to eat!