Wintercress

(Barbarea vulgaris)

Other Names:
Bittercress, Garlic Mustard, Herb Barbara, Rocketcress, Winter Rocket, and Wound Rocket, Yellow Rocketcress

Range:

Family:
Brassicaceae – Mustard family

Growth Type:
An herbaceous biennial or perennial, European import

Height:
Grows to a height of 1 - 2½ feet

Leaves:
Deeply lobed, dark green, hairless, and toothless leaves which grow in a basal rosette. Once the flower stalk appears, the upper leaves clasp the stalk and are long to broad. The lobes point toward the leaf tip rather than the leave base like those of dandelion. The lower leaves have 4 to 8 ear-like lobes.

Stem/Trunk:
It is smooth stemmed

Root:
Taproot similar to that of dandelion

Flower Season:
Summer

Flower Appearance:
The structure of the flowers is extremely uniform throughout the family. They have four free saccate sepals and four clawed free petals, staggered. They can be disymmetric or slightly zygomorphic, with a typical cross-like arrangement (hence the name 'Cruciferae'). They have six stamens, four of which are longer (as long as the petals, so relatively short in fact) and are arranged in a cross like the petals and the other two are shorter (tetradynamous flower). The pistil is made up of two fused carpels and the style is very short, with two lobes. Superior ovary. The flowers form ebracteate racemose inflorescences, often apically corymb-like. (This flower description was taken from Wikipedia)

Seed/Fruit:
The seeds are divided into two halves

Miscellaneous characteristics:
Unlike its relative dandelion, Wintercress does not contain a white sap. This highly nutritious plant provides plenty of B vitamins, potassium, and calcium. It is said the plant also helps prevent cancer because it contains highly concentrated levels of anti-carcinogenic substances.

Habitat:
Disturbed areas with moist soil, ditches, roadsides, and vacant lots. This plant grows in just about ever state coast to coast. As you may have guessed because of its love of wet conditions, Wintercress is absent from the hot areas of the desert southwest.

Parts Used:
Leaves and stems. Roots can also be roasted or pickled.

Uses:
Wild Food Uses:
The leaves are highly nutritious sources of B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and fiber. Unlike many plants, the flowers are a good source of protein. By the time the stalks appear, the leaves are too bitter to eat, but the flower buds, when they appear look and taste like broccoli and are quite good. The flowers themselves are also edible.

Note: There are some studies which indicate Wintercress may cause kidney malfunction, and should not be taken internally. I cannot attest to this, as I have eaten this herb for quite some time. I would recommend eating it with care.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:
The plant is said to possess anti-carcinogenic properties. Cherokee Indians used a tea brewed from the aerial parts as a blood purifier. Also used as an appetite stimulator. Europeans used poulticed leaves to treat wounds.

Medicinal Actions:
Antitussive, Bitter, Diuretic

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