Bittercress is not bitter

What are the properties of wild plants or “weeds” that make them so unwelcome in many gardens?  They can be any or all of the following:

  • Persistent
  • Hardy and resistant, able to out compete the plants you want to have
  • Able to spread or self seed prolifically

Bittercress certainly has all of these attributes.  In the past I have spent quite a bit of time early in the year attempting to rid the garden of it which was a thankless and largely pointless task.  The young plants are so tiny they can be hard to spot, then while you are not looking they grow at an amazing speed.  Finally just when you get back to them you find they have flowered, set seed and the pods are exploding and sending seeds flying in all directions.  They are in full flow in January and February when really most people don’t want to be out weeding and I used to consider them a thorough nuisance.

It is different now though.  I have made friends with bittercress, it is welcome in the garden and I pick it liberally.  The flavour is not bitter and neither is it particularly hot.  We had some today to check and my partner and I both agreed that the taste is a little hotter  / more peppery than standard mustard and cress type greens in a little pot, but certainly much less hot than watercress or land cress.  At lunch time today we had some as part of a mixed salad and also as a sandwich filler mixed with some left over scrambled egg.  Both ways it was really nice.

There is always some bittercress in the garden at this time of year and at the moment I have a small carpet of it.  I would once have been dismayed to see so much in one place, but now all I see is more salad leaf than I can use.  It was under a small carpet of snow this morning which I had to pull aside before picking some and taking this picture.


About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
This entry was posted in perennial greens, Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures, Telford Garden and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bittercress is not bitter

  1. annisveggies says:

    Hi, I’m glad it was so timely. It’s always best to make double sure that any new foods we try are correctly identified. I have just looked on the plants for a future database and my plants seem to be wavy bittercress (


    • Thanks for the link. (I’ve bookmarked the site; looks like a useful one.) Yes, I will make sure my plant is edible before eating . It may be exactly what you have, or a variation of it, since I’m in the U.S. Will do some more research to make sure it’s okay to eat.
      Keep up the good gardening & thanks for sharing your experiences & knowledge!


  2. Anni—this is incredibly timely ! I’ve had this plant growing in my pots & square-foot garden all winter, & believed it was cress, but was unsure. The other day I suddenly became determined to make use of it , if I could identify it for certain. Although I will still look for more info to confirm it, you’ve gotten me started & encouraged me to go ahead & put it in my salads, once I”ve confirmed that it is indeed what I’ve heard called ( around here) “winter cress”.


  3. icarus62 says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen that in my garden but it looks tasty. If you can’t beat it, eat it 🙂


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