A weird-sounding name, right? I saw them advertised on the outdoor sign of our local greengrocer and just had to find out what they were. Evidently, these foraged greens are a delicacy served in the Blue Ridge Mountains for years.
So I checked them out. They do occur naturally although they are not technically native. They’re bright green in early spring, followed by tiny yellow flowers. A cousin to watercress, they’re one of many plants in the mustard family that occur all over the United States. The flower is four-petaled just like arugula, radish and mustard. These greens are prized for their peppery taste.
Pennsylvania bittercress or Creasy greens
As soon as our snow melted, a similar plant emerged in my garden, growing everywhere in moist landscape beds. In the past I simply pulled it and tossed in the compost as a regular weed. This plant has similar leaves to creasies, but the flowers are white and the leaves have a hint of bitterness in addition to the peppery flavor. My plant is Pennsylvania bittercress (Cardamine pensylvanica). Creasy greens are Barbarea verna, with yellow flowers.
Now for experimenting. Sources I found said to either saute the leaves of either plant for a stir-fry or use them fresh in a salad. And, the roots can actually be ground and mixed with vinegar and salt to make a horseradish-like sauce. Evidently, both types of greens have amazing nutritional qualities – Vitamins C and A particularly.
Plentiful in my landscape (thought they were only weeds)
I’ve never been a fanatic forager but this has sparked that early spring yearning to find bitter greens to add to a salad. They are spring tonics that really do renew the body. Now that I have these growing right in my landscape, I won’t have to go far for my spring tonic. I’m sure I can find a few new dandelions soon to add to the mix.
Easy Creasy Greens (or any greens for that matter)
Film a skillet with about a tablespoon of oil of choice (sesame, olive, bacon grease)
Thinly slice half an onion and add to pan over medium heat. Saute until slightly tender.
Wash greens, remove flower stalks if there are any, and coarsely chop 2-3 handfuls. Add greens to the onions and toss in the oil until coated. Cook briefly until the greens are wilted. Add a couple of tablespoons water or stock, a dash of cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve as a side dish alone or toss with rice or pasta. I found that mixed with kale and sauteed over pasta is an excellent way to serve them.