Hoary Cress – Brocoli sauvage
Hoary Cress is a perennial, considered invasive in the U.S.A., where it has been introduced. The plant is greyish/green in appearance, velvety to the touch. It is very common in the south of France. It grows on cultivated and waste ground, on the edges of fields and on the side of the roads. It likes calcareous to neutral soils. Just before the plant comes into flower, the umbel-like, light green clusters of unopened flowers resemble broccoli, hence the French name, Brocoli sauvage.
The basal leaves are oblong, pointed, toothed on long stalks; the stem leaves are similar but clasping the stem. The plant belongs to the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). The kidney shaped fruits are inflated. It is 20-50 cm tall. The flowers are white.
All plants belonging to the cabbage family contain sulphur. Sulphur has a cleansing and antiseptic effect on the blood and digestive system. It is essential for healthy hair, nails and skin and for protein and carbohydrate absorption. Plants in the cabbage family are rich in Vitamins B, C, E and K. They contain an insoluble fibre called ‘lignans’. These lignans, being metabolised into mammalian lignans in the colon, are thought to have a defense mechanism against certain cancers.
The raw leaves and flower heads have a peppery, sulphurous flavour which diminishes somewhat during cooking. They can be stir-fried, together with pine nuts, or steamed. The young green grains are used as a substitute for pepper or mustard seeds. The young chopped leaves are delicious added to salads or soups.
Bibliography: Sauvages et comestibles – Marie-Claude Paume; Mediterranean Wild Flowers – Marjorie Blamey/Christopher Grey-Wilson; Brassica clan – Herbs are special; Brassica family – Wikipedia; Web