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.
More on Cabbage Family.
Arugula / Rocket
- [Arugula (us), Rocket (uk), Roquette (fr), Rucola (it),
Rughetta (it), B. Eruca sativa (garden) B. Eruca vesicaria
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.
[Kotem (Armenia); B. Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum and
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.
- [Genus Lepidium]
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]
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;
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.
Wikipedia distributed under license
Attribution 3.0 Unported, Attribution required.
Scurvy Grass -
[Cochlearia officinalis | English Scurvy Grass;
Cochlearia anglica | Danish / Early Scurvy Grass;
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
Attribution 3.0 Unported.
Wild Rocket -
[perennial wall-rocket, sand rocket, Lincoln weed, white rocket;
Seeds marketed as Wild Italian Arugula, Sylvetta Arugula;
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
CC0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
[Wavy Bittercress; Chaantruk (Manipur, India);
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
Attribution 3.0 Unported.