Hairy Bittercress – Cardamine hérissée
Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress) is considered by most gardeners a pest. They may change their minds once they have tasted the leaves. Hairy Bittercress has a delicious, peppery, tangy flavour, quite similar to Nasturtium officinalis (Watercress).
This little plant is found all over Europe. It grows up to 10-15cm tall. It prefers moist, shady conditions and is often found near watercourses, or in cool fertile soil. The seeds germinate in autumn, making the greens available throughout the winter. The leaves consist of many rounded leaflets in the form of a rosette. The flowers are very small, white, the fruit pods stick out above the flowers. When the fruits have ripened, they project their grains all around the plant, hence their invasiveness.
Warning: One should not pick Hairy Bittercress near streams or in fields where sheep have been grazing. Water from fields end up in the streams and may contain pollutants and pathogenic (production of diseases) organisms like liver fluke.
The herb is normally eaten fresh, cooking the herb destroys the pathogenic organisms.During the winter months it grows everywhere. Taking the above into account, there will be many places where one can safely pick the herb. It not only has tasty leaves, it has health benefits as well. It is rich in Vitamins A and C and contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. It is a stimulating herb with diuretic and expectorant properties.
Ingredients: two handfuls of Hairy Bittercress (Cardamina hirsuta), 4 potatoes, 1 leek, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 30 grams of False Rocket (Diplotaxis erucoides), a handful of Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), 25 grams of Stinging Nettle (Urtica), 25 grams of butter, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 litre of stock, salt and pepper to taste.
Chop the onion, potatoes, leek, carrot into chunks. Heat the oil in the pan and saute the vegetables except for the wild greens for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil , add the wild greens except the hairy bittercress. Gently cook for 15 minutes. Add the butter and the hairy bittercress and liquidize the soup until smooth.
Winter Green Salad
Ingredients: 1 large bunch of False Rocket (Diplotaxis erucoides), large bunch of Hairy Bittercress (Cardamina hirsuta), 1 large bunch of Chickweed (Stellaria media), 10 Sorrel leaves, either Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) or Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa); salt, pepper, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1/2 finely-chopped shallot.
Wash the herbs thoroughly and place in a bowl. Finely chop the sorrel and add to a lidded jar along with the onion, oil, vinegar and seasonings. Shake the mix thoroughly, pour the dressing over the greens in the bowl, toss and serve.
Bibliography: Web – Wikipedia; www.herberowe.wordpress.com; Sauvage et Comestibles – Marie-Claude Paume, Italian Feast – Antonio Carluzzi0
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