Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.


Hairy Bittercress Also called Wild Cress, Lambs Cress

cVenture into a different scale by searching for the tiny BittercressVenture into a different scale by searching for the tiny Bittercressardamine hirsuta


Whoever came up with the common name for this plant must have loved it so much they wished to put others off of eating it! It is a delicious tiny surprise found in the most unspecial of places. Go and check your gravel path or driveway, or around your potted plants and sandy flowerbeds since it loves to appear on freshly disturbed soil.

It can grow up to 30cm in height, but generally the flowers and subsequent elongated seed pods are the only things to stretch that far, the rest of the plant keeping low to the ground. Each circular leaf varies from 5mm to 2cm in their elongated older shape, growing in opposite pairs from a single base ending in a single larger leaf. The hairs to which it owes its name are small and relatively unobtrusive, they are harmless and do not need any special treatment to prepare for eating other than giving the whole plant a quick wash since it often collects dust and grit.


Looking at tiny plants opens up a new realm of existence as you notice details previously hidden from awareness – the miniscule lobes on the leaves and delicate white flowers so small they seem impossible! They’re pretty too when you get to looking, but then what flower isn’t? It’s almost a shame to eat it.


It goes to seed quickly so is best eaten when the plant is still a tiny rosette before flowering, under 2 inches, else the leaves change shape and become dry, damaged, and hairier. New seedlings tend to appear in summer and winter and as an annual has a short life cycle, dying within the year. Not to matter, it seeds so well there is always another plant ready to take its place. In winter it’s a most welcome sight to the forager with not much else to be found.

It’s a common enough plant so I’m not too concerned about pulling the whole thing up, in fact the plant is so small and the roots often weakly in place it will in all likelihood pull out of the ground if you try pulling on a leaf however if I can I make use of my sharp fingernails and 'cut' the leaves away with a pinch. Bittercress is often deemed something of a nuisance amongst many gardeners as it self seeds so quickly and extremely well – the long seed pods (long for the plant, no more than 2cm in our reality) bursting open and scattering the seeds up to a metre away! Of course if you’re uprooting any plant, no matter how common it is, by law you mustn’t do so on someone else land unless you have permission.

Useful wild plants like Bittercress can nudge you into a different way of looking at life. After all you can be angry with it for invading your borders and paths and bitterly spray the ‘weed’ with poisons, or perhaps instead delight in its arrival and pull it up for your sandwiches… Personally I don’t see any plant as a ‘weed’, instead simply flowers making an attempt at life in a place that us humans deem inappropriate!


How do you eat it?

Like the more familiar sprouting cress in our kitchens (in fact it is a relative as well as of the larger Mustard) Bittercress goes well with egg dishes or scattered atop some creamy soft cheese. It contains decent levels of vitamin C and vitamin A, along with phosphorus, calcium and magnesium – essential minerals often found lacking in the modern western diet. All the more reason to sprinkle some in your sandwiches for a bite of pepper and all the wild nutrients along with it.

 Open sandwich with egg and foraged BittercressOpen sandwich with egg and foraged Bittercress

I admit it’s not something that I would go out specifically to harvest since the reward, like its leaves, is so tiny but it’s always a welcome sight when I do spot it. I think of it as a sort of bonus plant, the little something extra often found growing between our cultivated vegetables!


Have you tried Bittercress? We’d love to hear from you, leave your thoughts in the comments below!

<Back to Foraging

Sarah is an artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

© 2014. The Waki Way. All Rights Reserved.


If something is useful & relevant to our readers we link to it directly (no 3rd party ads)! To help support the site we make use of affiliate links where appropriate; Sarah is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. It doesn't cost you a penny extra to order anything via the links posted on this site.


The Waki Way shall under no circumstances be liable for any damages, convictions or injury whatsoever – including but not limited to damages arising out of, related to or resulting from your access to, or inability to access, this site, and your reliance on any information or opinions provided herein. 

Cookie Policy

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer.

Do you accept?