Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris) is a biennial plant in the mustard family. It has yellow, four-petaled flowers that appear in late spring and early summer. Its leaves are edible and have a peppery flavor. It is native to Europe and parts of Asia but is now naturalized in other parts of the world, such as here in our region the Ozarks.

It is also known as yellow rocket, winter rocket, or bittercress. It is an edible plant that has a bitter taste when eaten raw but can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. When cooked mush of the bitterness is removed.

Wintercress is a member of the mustard family and grows best in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. The leaves are dark green, deeply lobed, and can reach up to 8 inches long. The flowers are yellow and will bloom throughout the spring and summer. Wintercress is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and is considered a weed in some parts of the world. It is often used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of ailments. It is also a great food source for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.

Health Benefits of Wintercress

It is a cool-season perennial herb that offers many health benefits. It is a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Wintercress is also high in antioxidants and some polyphenols, which can help reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative stress in the body. Wintercress may help boost the immune system, improve digestion, and reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. It may also help regulate blood sugar levels, support heart health, and even fight certain types of cancer. Finally, wintercress can be used as a natural remedy for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Nutritional Value

Wintercress is a wild edible herb that has numerous nutritional benefits. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. It is rich in dietary fiber and essential minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Wintercress contains a wide variety of antioxidants, which can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, wintercress has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Its high levels of dietary fiber can help promote digestive health, and its vitamin C content is beneficial for boosting immunity. Wintercress is also a low-calorie food, making it a great choice for weight loss.

Medicinal Properties

Wintercress has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant to treat a variety of ailments. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as antibacterial and antiviral activities. It has been used to treat colds, flu, skin conditions, and digestive problems. It is also believed to have antiseptic and antispasmodic properties, which may help to reduce pain and inflammation. Additionally, wintercress is thought to help with liver problems, hypertension, and diabetes. It may also be beneficial for reducing cholesterol levels and improving overall circulation, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease. Wintercress can be taken as a tea, tincture, or extract when used for its medicinal properties.

uses for wintercress

Culinary Uses for Wintercress

Wintercress is a cruciferous vegetable with a mild, peppery flavor. The leaves, stems, and flowers of wintercress can all be eaten. The leaves and stems are usually cooked, as they are quite bitter when eaten raw. The leaves can be used in salads, soups, and other dishes, or steamed and served as a side dish. The flowers can be added to salads or used as a garnish. Wintercress can also be used to make a variety of sauces and dressings. It can be blended into a pesto-like sauce or used to make a creamy cheese sauce. It can also be used to make a vinaigrette or a simple dressing with oil and vinegar. Wintercress pairs well with other vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions. It can also be used in omelets, frittatas, and quiches, or as a topping for pizza. It can even be used in stir-fries, curries, and stews. Overall, wintercress is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Its mild, peppery flavor adds depth and interest to dishes, and its nutritional content makes it a healthy addition to any meal.

How to Grow Wintercress

Although it can be wild foraged if you can find a patch growing in your area, wintercress is relatively easy to grow in the garden as well. To grow wintercress, start by choosing a location with well-draining, slightly acidic soil and full sun to partial shade. Sow seeds directly in the garden in the spring after the danger of the last frost has passed, or start them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Plant the seeds 1/4 inch deep and thin the seedlings to 12-18 inches apart once they emerge. Water regularly and use a mulch to help retain moisture. Wintercress will typically bolt (flower and set seed) in the summer, so harvest the leaves before this happens to ensure maximum flavor. You should also harvest the leaves regularly to encourage new growth. Wintercress is a self-seeding plant, so you should not need to replant each year. If you would like to collect the seeds, wait until the flowers turn brown and the seed pods begin to split open. This happens in late summer to early fall. Cut the stems and place them in a paper bag to finish drying. Once the seeds are dry, store them in a cool, dry place until the following spring.

bee on wintercress

Ornamental Uses

Wintercress is a popular ornamental plant due to its easy maintenance and attractive foliage. It is an excellent ground cover for shady areas, as it can tolerate low levels of light. It is also drought-tolerant and can withstand temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, wintercress is deer resistant, making it a good choice for gardens where deer are a problem. Wintercress is an excellent addition to flower beds, borders, and rock gardens. Its bright yellow flowers can contrast beautifully with other colorful flowers. Its dense foliage can be used to create a low-growing hedge or a textured ground cover. Wintercress can even be used as a container plant, either on its own or in combination with other plants. Wintercress is a beautiful and versatile plant that can be used to enhance any outdoor space. Its low-maintenance nature makes it a great choice for beginner gardeners, and its attractive foliage and flowers make it an excellent addition to any garden.


Wintercress is an incredibly versatile and nutritious green that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It is easy to grow and care for, making it a great addition to any garden. Its unique spicy flavor and crunchy texture make it a great addition to salads, soups, and sandwiches. It is also a great source of vitamins and minerals, making it a great choice for anyone looking to add more nutrient-rich food to their diet. Whether you choose to grow wintercress in your garden or buy it at the grocery store, it is sure to be a welcome addition to any meal.

For information on other edible and medicinal plants be sure and visit our Natural Living and Health Blog.

This site has further information on foraging and cooking with wintercress.

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