Hairy Bittercress

by Daisy


I visited my sister last week and she invited me to look over a bare garden bed in her backyard in which she had sown several kinds of seeds.  Being a normal sort of person who doesn’t research seedling identification, she didn’t know if what was sprouting was “anything,” or if it was just weeds.

Unfortunately, it was the latter.  Mainly: hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta).

I think hairy bittercress is pretty neat.  Technically, it’s edible, with a slightly peppery taste like its mustard relatives.  I also have to admire (reluctantly) how the ripe seedpods explode when disturbed, shooting seeds several feet away, attaching to clothing and fur for easy, wide dispersal.  To have any hope of eradicating an outbreak of hairy bittercress in your yard, be sure and start early in the spring before the seedpods are ready to burst, because the act of weeding them once they are primed and ready to shoot will only spread them further.

When I first identified hairy bittercress, I wondered why the name “hairy,” because the leaves are smooth and not furry like I expected something called hairy to look like.  Then, I looked at an extreme close-up photo and saw tiny hairs on the edges of the leaves.  Mystery solved.


Hairy bittercress leaves are small, especially when they are young and tender, so I would never grow them on purpose, but it’s good to know you can eat them in a pinch.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Meredith May 22, 2013 at 9:28 am

Very good to know! I’ll be sure to look out for these guys and try to nab them out of the garden before those zany seedpods pop!

Cinnamon Vogue May 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

Good to know we can eat them in a pinch. Wonder if it has any health properties. Reminds me of Gotu Kola which is also a bitter on it’s own but eaten in Sri Lanka. Usually chopped ultra fine, mixed with fresh coconut, shallots, lime, dried maldive fish and a finely chopped green chili.

Daisy May 22, 2013 at 11:59 am

I’d love a recipe. What is it called? Have lots of gotu kola, no recipes for it.

Cinnamon Vogue May 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Daisy here I found a link to the Gotu Kola Salad –

There are Youtube videos for Gotu Kola. Take a look. Make sure you use fresh coconut. Since it is a headache to grate coconut, you can buy grated frozen coconut from an Indian stores for about $2.99 per packet which is enough for like twenty Gotu Kola salads. When they say red pearl onions in this recipe, they mean shallots which is also a must. Maldive fish (dried tuna fish) which adds real taste to this, can also be obtained at Indian stores. it’s like $3 for a whole bottle and you can use it for a lot of other crazy dishes. Gotu Kola on it’s own is a little bitter, but when mixed with the other ingredients it comes into it’s own.

In Sri Lanka people usually eat it with white rice, a chicken or beef cury and some red lentils. A fabulous combination.

It’s very good for many things especially for youthful skin as well as venous insufficiency and varicose veins, wound healing and skin lesions, anxiety, scleroderma and insomnia. but you should not eat it more than 3-4 times a month since extended eating may create liver damage and increase blood levels and cholestrol. The Vietnamese stores even sell a Gotu Kola drink.

Eaten in moderation it really is great for your skin.

Daisy May 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Thank you, I like the looks of that recipe. I’ll have to look for the Maldive fish, never heard of that.

Myrnie May 22, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Oh man, this stuff….it’s horrendous in our PNW yard. It just takes one sunny day in February to push all those winter weeds into seeds, and we have a HUGE problem with this stuff! Thanks for identifying it, maybe we’ll try eating it 🙂

Varicose Veins Treatment December 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

Aside from your description providing the photo of this herb helps a lot. I was also wondering why it was called hairy. The photo focused it.

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