Arugula Leaves Mustard Family - Herbs


The huge and important Cabbage / Mustard family (Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae)) is best known for the leafy greens and the root vegetables that got humans through the winter in earlier times. Nonetheless, this family also produces some popular herbs and flowers.

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Arugula / Rocket   -   [Arugula (us), Rocket (uk), Roquette (fr), Rucola (it), Rughetta (it), B. Eruca sativa (garden) B. Eruca vesicaria (wild)]
Arugula Stems and Leaves

This popular salad green of Mediterranean origin has been used since at least Roman times. Almost unknown in the U.S. a couple decades ago it is today the "must have" green for yuppie salads, so supermarkets stock pre-cut and washed bags of "baby" arugula. The leaves are small and tender but have a distinctly mustardy bite, backed by an unusually complex flavor.

Some varieties have leaves less deeply cut than the photo specimen and the leaves are very deeply cut on the wild version. The most beautiful bunch of Arugula I've ever purchased was from Whole Foods Market - and it was so flavorless it was unusable. In Italy Arugula is used in soups, but cooked it looses almost all its flavor. The term "Rocket" is also loosely used for a number of other peppery herbs. Details and Cooking.

Watercress   -   [Kotem (Armenia); B. Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum and N. microphyllum]
Watercress Stems and Leaves

Watercress, native to Europe and Western Asia, has been cultured and eaten since prehistoric times. Its relatively mild mustardy bite is a welcome addition to green salads and in sandwiches, but it's also used cooked in soups and other recipes. Depending on how it was grown and cut some of the stems can be quite large. All but the largest can be used along with the leaves as they are hollow, tender and have much the same flavor as the leaves. Details and Cooking.

Cress   -   [Genus Lepidium]
This genus contains 175 to 220 species worldwide (depending on expert consulted). Beside the members of this genus listed below, many others are edible with similar taste, and may be used locally. One in particular (Tall Whitetop; Lepidium latifolium) is notable, not for its edibility (though it is edible), but because it is a very aggressive and troublesome invasives in North America and elsewhere.


Garden Cress   -   [Pepper Grass, Pepperwort, Mustard and Cress, B. Lepidium sativum]
Flowering Garden Cress

Used similarly to Watercress this green can tolerate a wider range of moisture conditions so can be grown either in the garden or hydroponically, preferring a slightly alkaline environment. It is said to be in great demand in some regions but I have never seen it in Southern California where the broader leafed cress and watercress are widely available year round. Garden cress can grow to about 24 inches high and when allowed to flower it produces fruits which when immature are similar to caper berries. Photo by Krish Dulal distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

Shahee / Tartizak   -   [Persian Broadleaf Cress; various spellings: Shahi, Chahe, Shahe; Lepidium sativum]
Shahee Leaves

This peppery herb, a broadleaf variety of Garden Cress, is very popular in the Middle East, particularly Iran. I have found it, variously spelled, in Southern California produce markets serving Armenian, Middle Eastern and Persian communities. It is popular in salads, sandwiches and particularly in the Persian fresh herb plate, Sabzi Khordan, which accompanies most meals in Iran. It can also be a last minute addition to soups. This is a dry land cress, lightly peppery and less intense than Watercress, with leaves that are broader and thinner.

Pepper Cress   -   [Pepper Grass, Pepperwort, B. Lepidium possibly spc. L. ruderale, or may be a variety of L. sativum]
Pepper Cress Leaves

Of the many very different plants called "Pepper Cress", this one has very fine, delicate leaves and a peppery taste quite a bit stronger than that of Watercress. It can be a very good accent addition to salads. The photo specimen were obtained from a specialty grower at a farmer's market in Los Angeles.

Field Pepperweed   -   [Lepidium campestre]
Flowering Field Pepperweed Plant

This plant, probably originating in Eastern Europe and Western Asia, has become an invasive in North America. It is found in most of the southern provinces of Canada and most states of the United States, but not Alaska or Texas. It grows mostly on disturbed ground, as a basal rosette of long leaves, sending up flower stalks to as much as 2 feet high. The stalks have small, arrow shaped leaves all the way up, and they branch into multiple stalks near the top.

Young leaves and shoots from the basal rosette can be eaten raw in salads or boiled for 10 minutes. Older leaves need to be boiled longer and in several changes of water. Young seed pods, a little less than 1/4 inch long, can be used as a spice, having a taste like a combination of black pepper and mustard. They are particularly useful in soups and stews. Seeds from mature pods can be used as a black pepper substitute.   Photo by Fornax distributed under license Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 3.0 Unported.


Upland Cress   -   [American Cress, Bank Cress, Black Wood Cress, Belle Isle Cress, Bermuda Cress, Early Yellowrocket, Early Wintercress, Scurvy Cress, Creasy Greens, Land Cress; Barbarea verna]
Cluster of Leafy Upland Cress

This plant is native to southwestern Europe, but is now found in many of the eastern states of the United States, and in the west coast states, but distribution is patchy. This cress has long been cultivated in England, and some is cultivated in Florida. This cress is a reasonable substitute for watercress, used in salads and sandwiches. The leaves look much the same, but it's a bit stronger in taste. It is also cooked like spinach and used in soups and with fish. It can be grown with a lot less water than watercress, but still needs full sun and moist ground.

Garlic Mustard   -   [Garlic root, Hedge Garlic, Sauce-alone, Jack-by-the-hedge, Jack-in-the-bush, Penny Hedge and Poor Man's Mustard; Alliaria petiolata]
Flowering Garlic Mustard Plant

Native to Europe, Central Asia as far as northern India, and also western North Africa, Garlic Mustard is a very long used seasoning. We have evidence it was so used in the Baltic region about 6000 years ago. With a flavor similar to a combination of garlic and mustard, the leaves are chopped and added to salads and sauces. Flowers and young seed pods are sometimes included. In France the seeds are used as a spice.

Garlic Mustard was brought to North America as a culinary herb during the 1860s, and is now a troublesome, very difficult to eradicate invasive, infesting 27 states, mostly Midwest and Eastern, but also Washington, Oregon and just a bit in Alaska. Also British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada, but we have none here in California.   Photo by Sannse at English Language Wikipedia distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported, Attribution required.

Scurvy Grass   -   [Cochlearia officinalis   |   English Scurvy Grass; Cochlearia anglica   |   Danish / Early Scurvy Grass; Cochlearia danica]
Flowering Scurvy Grass Plant

Native to Western Europe, mainly along coasts and in mountains, this plant is very high in vitamin C, thus is a bit sour. It is also somewhat bitter, but was very important for preventing or curing scurvy caused by lack of vitamin C on long ocean voyages. It was also a common souring agent until citrus became common in Europe. It was spread inland due to salting of roads in the winter. Seeds washing off vehicle wheels had little competition because scurvy grass could stand the salty soil at the side of roads. Note that there are unrelated plants also called "scurvy grass".   Photo by Karelj distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

Wild Rocket   -   [perennial wall-rocket, sand rocket, Lincoln weed, white rocket; Seeds marketed as Wild Italian Arugula, Sylvetta Arugula; Diplotaxis tenuifolia]
Flowering Wild Rocket Plant

This plant is native to Europe and Western Asia, but is now found in temperate regions over much of the world. The taste is similar to Arugula. Commercial cultivation is currently increasing rapidly as it is being included as "baby leaf rocket" (and similar names), mixed with other "baby leaf" greens to make the baby leaf salads so favored by yuppies. Yuppies will pay extra for "baby" anything - as proven by "baby carrots" which are machined out of large carrots by automatic lathes.   Photo by AnRo0002 contributed to the Public Domain by Creative Commons CC0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Chaantruk   -   [Wavy Bittercress; Chaantruk (Manipur, India); Cardamine flexuosa]
Flowering Chaantruk Plant

This low but erect (to almost 12 inches) herb is native to temperate Europe and Asia from England to Japan. Some grows as far north as Finland but only in warmer micro-climates. It is an invasive in much of eastern United States and Canada, and appears in California and Washington state. Leaves are edible raw or cooked and have a sharp peppery taste. They are used as a garnish and herbal ingredient in the cuisine of Manipur in the far east of India (east of Bangladesh). Manipur cuisine does not use curry spices, but many local herbs and plenty of chilis. The roots are also edible raw or cooked. This plant is listed on Plants for a Future.   Photo by Fornax distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

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