Wild edible Hairy Bittercress ( Cardamine hirsuta)
This foragers guide to Hairy Bittercress will inform you of the following:
- When and where to find the wild edible
- A foraging identification guide – What the wild food looks
- Tasting notes – what the wild food tastes like
- Nutritional information on vitamins and Minerals
- A wild edible recipe
- Foraging walks in Le Marche Italy where you will hopefully find this and many other wild edibles
Hairy Bittercress (also known as bittercress, land-cress, wild cress and lamb’s cress) is a winter annual member of the Brassicaceae (mustard) family and is related to Rocket or Rucola. It is native to Europe and Asia but is also found in North America.
Hairy Bittercress – when to find this wild edible
The plant germinates in the Autumn and stays green throughout the winter months. It flowers quite early in the Spring until the Autumn. The small white flowers are found at the top of wiry green stems and are soon followed by seeds but often continuing to flower as the first seeds ripen. The seed are housed in siliquae which, as with many Brassica species, will often emerge explosively when touched, dispersing the seeds far from the Bittercress plant
Hairy Bittercress- where to forage?
Hairy bittercress likes moist freshly-disturbed soil and is a common weed in European gardens. Its ability to remains green throughout the winter means this plant plays a crucial role for the wild forager as it supplies essential vitamins and minerals through the Winter, It is best eaten though in January and February.
The plant is, as its name suggests, is bitter or peppery in flavour and benefits from being gently wilted in heavily-salted water if you prefer less bitterness. The flavour has a peppery hit that you would expect from rocket, just wash the rosette and add to an egg sandwich or a wild herb salad or alternatively pulse with pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan and garlic for a bittercress pesto.
Hairy Bittercress – Foragers identificaton
This wild edible grows with a small rosette at the base that foragers should simply take out of the ground and slice off the muddy root. The leaves have a typical cress-style look and small white flowers that can be seen reaching upwards between February and September.
It is rich in Vitamins A and C and contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. It is a stimulating herb with diuretic and expectorant properties.
We will soon be offering Foraging walks that aim to provide basic skills for spotting, collecting and preparing wild edibles. These can be included as part of any holiday, or a walking holiday or cooking holiday here in Marche Italy. Please let us know if you are interested and we will let you know when these start.
Goat’s Cheese with Beetroot and Wild Herb recipe
- 4 goats’ cheeses (about 120g each)
- olive oil
- thyme leaves
- 3 large beetroot, baked, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar salt and black pepper 12 baby beetroot, raw 2 sprigs thyme
- 150g fresh wild hairy bittercress
- 20g toasted pine nuts
Lightly toast the pine nuts in a frying pan
Meanwhile, add the sugar to a saucepan and melt over low heat. Continue cooking the sugar until it turns golden then add the chopped beetroot and stir until they are completely coated in the caramel. Take off the heat, add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Place the contents of the pan in a food processor and blend to a purée. Strain the beet purée through a colander lined with muslin, allowing the liquid to drip into a bowl. When it stops dripping season the liquid and add an equal volume of olive oil to form a dressing. Then scrape the beet purée into a separate bowl, season and set both the purée and the dressing aside.
Wrap the baby beetroot and the thyme sprigs in a foil parcel and place in an oven pre-heated to 140°C, baking for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, peel the beetroot and set aside to cool. Remove the cheeses from the marinade then dry them, slice 1cm thick and place under a hot grill for 2 minutes.
Add a little of the dressing to the herbs then place a tablespoon of the beet purée on each plate. Set the dressed herbs on top and put the cheese on top of these. Add the baby beetroot and pine nuts, drizzle a little more of the beet dressing on top and serve.