Unexpected Edibles - Little Western Bittercress
April 25, 2013 at 4:57 PM
Distributed throughout the Western US, Little Western Bittercress (Cardamine oligosperma) is a notorious weed that begins appearing in the dark days of winter and persists until the onset of summer heat. If you garden in this region, chances are you have experienced its explosive seeds, which catapult out of the tiny mature pods at the slightest touch, sending hundreds of seeds sometimes many feet away, or right into your face. But there's a plus side: harvested young, bittercress is also a delicious salad green, containing all the spicy goodness of its cultivated cousins, the upland and water cresses, with a touch of wild, mineral richness not found in any other green.
I limit my bittercress harvest to those growing in my garden. While bittercress sprouts nearly everywhere its seeds land (sidewalk cracks, along bike trails, the edges of lawns and gardens), many of these locations are not controlled—i.e. you don’t know what’s been sprayed, dumped or otherwise distributed there. In the safety of my own garden plot, I can be relatively sure the plants are clean. And in fertile soil, bittercress foliage grows much larger and more succulent than do their feral counterparts. I pull the plants out whole (otherwise known as weeding), wash and spin them dry, then trim off the roots before using the leaflets in my early spring salads, as a fancy ‘microgreen’ garnish, or to spice up a sandwich.