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Peppercress has slender fern-like leaves and tender lime green stems. Young shoots are most mild, while mature leaves and dried seeds pods become quite intense. The flavor is initially grassy and earthy, but then develops into a strong spicy, peppery flavor. The herbal yet hot taste is similar to its relatives, the mustard green and watercress.
Peppercress greens are available year-round with peak season in the spring and summer months.
Peppercress is botanically classified as Lepidium sativum and is a member of the Brassicaceae family. Peppercress is a versatile leafy green that may also be commonly referred to as peppergrass or garden cress. Edible at all stages of growth, the sprouts, mature leaves, flowers and even dried seedpods each offer a distinct level of spicy heat.
Peppercress is a rich source of ascorbic acid, containing 37% vitamin C.
Peppercress may be eaten raw or cooked. The young sprouts and baby greens are best used raw in salads, especially when mixed with mild butter lettuce or hearts of romaine. They are tender and blend easily into pesto, vinaigrettes, marinades and chimichurri. Larger leaves may be sautéed, blanched or braised and are an excellent complement to the sweet flavor of young spring vegetables such as, peas, asparagus, fava beans and even baby beets. Other flavor affinities include, almonds, walnuts, pistachio, mint, parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives, cilantro, fennel, fig, potatoes, endive, garlic, ginger, shallots, scallion, leeks, sesame, cucumber, eggs, bacon, roast beef, salmon shrimp, cream, goat cheese, mascarpone and olive oil.
Peppercress is used in herbal and folk medicine to treat asthma, coughs and topical wounds. It is cultivated in Ethiopia for the plentiful oil extracted from its seed. The oils is both edible and used as lighting fuel.
Peppercress is most likely native to Iran, but is rarely found in the wild and most commonly found in cultivated gardens around the world. It is an easy to grow plant that quickly germinates from seed. It thrives in moist soils and partial shade and is not frost tolerant. Peppercress is prone to bolting if grown in direct sunshine but will provide an abundant supply of leafy sprouts when shaded and regularly pruned.
Recipes that include Peppercress. One is easiest, three is harder.