The Nire Valley

The Nire Valley
The Heart of the Comeragh Mountains.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Leaves of winter.

The Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta, is a tenacious weed, the hint of Spring will bring it to life. This little plant will suddenly appear in planters, garden pots and bare ground. The avid gardener will attack it with a biblical purge, but this little plant, that produces five hundred seeds, reappears in a flash and can quickly overrun every piece of bare ground, its war with the gardener continues all year. However, were the gardener to take a slightly different course, their sweat and toil would have a tasty outcome as Hairy Bittercress is one of the most flavoursome wild salad plants you will meet and it grows for free all around you.

The Hairy Bittercress is neither hairy or bitter or a cress, but it tastes like cress and in a sandwich it is indistinguishable from water cress. The Hairy Bittercress has fresh, nutty or peppery flavour even a cabbage like taste, and so it should as it is related to cabbage. It belongs to the Cardamine family, its near cousin the Lady's Smock Cardamine Pretensis has a beautiful soft pink colour and is the sole food for the Orange Tip Butterfly.

Keep an eye out for this edible weed now as it is popping up everywhere and is easy to identify before other weeds appear. It is best collected by snipping off leaves with a scissors, you can eat flowers and leaves, add them to a salad, my favourite is a great big bunch of Hairy Bittercress and sardines.

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