Winter Cress (Wild Edible)
Last week, I saw a car parked at the bottom of my driveway, and two people were picking flowers on my property, but near the road. I was initially irritated that someone was trespassing, and I started towards them. In my walk from my garden to the gate, I started to think about the two ways in which I could handle this situation. I could tell them to get off my property, and I’m sure they would comply. Or, I could talk to them, and see what they were doing before deciding what to do.
It was an older couple from Pakistan, and they were picking winter cress. I spoke with the husband, and he told me how they cook the plant in butter and garlic. He didn’t know what the plant was, but I know it as winter cress. He explained to me that he was a farmer in Pakistan, but he lives in an apartment here in PA. His wife offered to cook some and bring me some back for me to try. Ultimately, I decided to see things from the perspective of the abundance of permaculture, instead of the scarcity mentality that is prevalent today. I let the couple continue to pick, and offered a small plot on my land to garden. The man was overcome by joy, that he gave me an awkward hug, which I didn’t do a good job of reciprocating, because I’m just not much of a hugger.
So, my new friends inspired me to try this plant that they seem to like so much. I pinched a small plant and ate the stem, the leaves, and the flower buds. I expected it to be bitter, but it was actually quite mild, and the stem was even a little sweet. I have read of others saying the plant can be bitter, but that was not my experience. The plants that were flowering weren’t bitter, but the taste was not very good, and there was a bad after taste. I picked a bunch more, and I had some fresh in a salad. I do have to warn you though. I have read that this plant can cause kidney malfunction. I did not have any issues.
The stems, leaves, flower buds, and flowers are edible. It is best to pick the plants when they are young, before they flower. I noticed that some stems are tough, while others are not. You can gently bend the plants before you pick them to see which ones are soft. The flower buds resemble broccoli in taste and looks. Winter cress is a good source calcium, vitamin B, and potassium.
Can be used as an appetite stimulator, and poultice leaves to treat cuts.