Hairy bittercress ( Cardamine hirsuta)
Common Name: Hairy bittercress Latin : Cardamine hirsuta Family: Brassicaceae (Cruciferae)
History and/or use: Tasty peppery addition for salads rich in vitamin C.
Hairy bittercress ( Cardamine hirsuta) is a very common weed which looks like a mini watercress and has a succulent peppery taste that is fresh and clean to the palate. It is a wild mustard rich in vitamin C and mentioned in Saxon herb lore and yet when investigated the knowledge of this small plant seems to be very minimal. A plant with these qualities and listed as one of the nine key herbs in Saxon lore surely is worthy of much scrutiny.
Qualities of Bittercress.
Bittercress although it grows, flowers and seeds in a very short time, is very productive provided bare soil is available for it to set seed. It demonstrates the ability to endure by ever-changing and adapting to new habitats that present themselves. Its longevity borne out not in a long life but in its ability to survive as a species. As humans the whole act of destruction and sacrifice is hard to contemplate but plays a huge part in Nature's cycles to quote John Muir once again:
'But we quickly learn that destruction is creation. Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying....'
However it must equally be noted without change this plant would not persevere for the soil must be disturbed for it to regenerate whereas long-lived species that require stability have a different survival niche.
If you have any medical conditions please check with a medical herbalist first before taking any plant and only harvest it if you are 100% sure what it is!
Bittercress in Saxon lore is said to drive out venom and remove pain and certainly this plant is nutritious and can provide many health benefits. It is all too easy to put the science first but time and time again it is the folklore informing the science and the science simply confirming what the plant was already known to do. Maybe our ancestors used the qualities of this plant in ways we are yet to re-discover!
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.