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Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)


Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)

Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) may not win any beauty contests, but it’s the “Cinderella” of the plant kingdom. It grows everywhere at a pace, so it’s often overlooked and underestimated. Most people think of it as an annoying lawn weed at best…

Cinderella Bittercress

In fact, this little herbaceous plant is the Belle of the ball. It packs a punch in nutritional benefits, with far more vitamins and minerals than a supermarket salad bag. And as it grows in abundance, it can be harvested at any time, sustainably!

How To ID… Hairy Bittercress

Take a close look at its leaves. They’re arranged in a rosette pattern and its leaves grow in pairs opposite each other. The smaller leaves are mostly on the lower end of the stem with a larger leaf at the top end (the technical term is pinnately compound). And here’s a helpful ID key: the leaves have a slightly lobed, disc-shaped appearance, giving them a frilly, almost dainty look.

The flowers of hairy bittercress are tiny and white, with four petals arranged in a cross shape. They’re clustered atop thin stalks that rise above the foliage, making them quite conspicuous.

Tastes like… Pepper!

It’s a member of the mustard family, and despite its name, it’s not bitter or hairy (🤔).  Both the flowers and leaves are edible, but sometimes the flowers are a little on the chewy side. The leaves themselves are delicious though, adding a delicate peppery bite to dishes. You may notice a hint of mustard, which adds depth to its taste profile. And a slight nuttiness that rounds out the overall flavour and makes it a perfect garnish for sandwiches.

You can harvest it all year round, but it tastes best when the plant is young and tender, before flowering. It’s packed with so much goodness, including antioxidants, calcium and vitamin K, giving you a hearty boost without the artisan price tag. It can be added to salads, it makes a delicious soup and its earthy flavour complements a wide range of side dishes.

So, wander outside and pull up this unsung hero for your lunch, with a farmer’s sandwich of cheese, apples and a handful of fresh hairy bittercress!