February 2009 – Although not the greatest wild vegetable, bittercress is available at a point in the year when few fungi are available…
This is one of the first plants to start growing in early spring and is readily available when almost everything else is still dormant. It is found across the country and is particularly frequent on bare and freshly turned soil, although it is also often found growing from the crevices in walls. As a result it is one of the commonest garden weeds, but few people realise it has a fine tangy flavour as they toss it on the compost heap.
The peppery taste is actually reminiscent of watercress and is all the better for being a hint of things to come. Indeed, its leaves can be eaten all through the winter, although they are probably at their best in early spring. They are probably a little strong to use on their own, but they make a great addition to a green salad. Here they perk up the flavour no end and a bowl of mixed leaves scattered with bittercress is certainly infinitely superior to an expensive bag of mixed leaves from the supermarket. Alternatively try them with brie, bacon or a flash-fried steak in a crusty baguette.
This article is reproduced by kind permission of Daniel Butler www.fungiforays.co.uk