Scientific name: Lepidium species
Abundance: common
What: seeds, young leaves
How: seeds raw, leaves raw or cooked
Where: sunny disturbed areas
When: early spring through late winter
Nutritional Value: minerals
Danger: Pennycresses are hyperaccumulators of minerals. If the soil is contaminated with toxic metals these plants will suck them up.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of Lepidium species are typically arranged alternately along the stem, with a rosette at the base.

Leaf Shape: The leaves vary in shape but are often oblong to lanceolate. Basal leaves can be more rounded or lobed, while stem leaves are usually smaller and less divided.

Leaf Venation: The venation is pinnate, with a central vein and smaller side veins.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaves can be entire (smooth), toothed, or lobed.

Leaf Color: The leaves are usually a bright to dark green.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and typically arranged in loose clusters spiraling up the top of stems. Each flower has four petals, often arranged in a cross shape.

Flower Color: The flowers are usually white, sometimes with a hint of yellow or green.

Fruit: The plant produces small, round to oval seed pods, often notched at the tip.

Seed: The seeds are tiny, reddish-brown to black, and found inside the pods.

Stem: The stem is slender, branched, and can be smooth or sparsely hairy.

Hairs: Some species may have fine hairs on the stem and leaves.

Height: Lepidium species vary in height but typically range from 6 inches to 2 feet.

Peppergrass plant.

One peppergrass plant. It has a distinctive silhouette.

Close-up picture of the plant.

Close-up of seed pods.

Even closer close-up of seed pods.

Texas distribution, attributed to U.S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

North America has over 100 different species of Lepidium and Texas has 23. They are all very similar in appearance and edibility. The seeds have a spicy/peppery taste similar to radishes. I usually just bite the young, green seed-stalks off the plant. The young leaves also have the horse-radishy taste but by the time the seeds appear the leaves have become to power-tasting for most people to eat. The young, tender seed pods also add a bit of a kick to salads.

I like adding them raw to sandwiches or blending them into mayonnaise to make an interesting horseradish-like sauce.   

These plants seem to thrive in waste areas. I see them growing along all the major roads and freeways in Houston. They even grow out of the cracks in the concrete barriers at the toll road toll booths starting in late winter (February) into early summer (May-June). Their shape is distinctive, look for a single stalk that branches out into multiple, "bumpy" stalks.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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