Station: [22] Perennial Pepperweed

F 2: A lot of wild herbs have slipped into obscurity these days. Most people no longer know how to use them in the kitchen and around the home. Yet in the past, many varieties of these herbs were bred. Take common chicory (Cichorium intybus) with its light blue flowers, which grows along the edges of fields. In the old days, it was a valued food plant. The endive, which provides slightly bitter salad leaves in winter, was bred from it. But it was also important as a medicinal plant, valued for its calming effect and as a remedy against lack of appetite.

Many a herb has vanished from our gardens, despite being tasty and easy to grow. The roots and leaves of the white flowering perennial pepperweed (lepidium latifolium), for instance, have a wide range of uses in the kitchen. As the name suggests, it has a peppery taste that’s reminiscent of pungent horseradish. It’s particularly delicious in herb butter, or added to curd cheese, and putting it in a green salad produces quite a taste explosion. Why not give it a try!

In medieval times, the popularity of perennial pepperweed was no doubt partly due to the fact that real peppercorns had to be imported from India and were rare and hence expensive. In Germany, there’s even a nickname for the wealthy traders who had a monopoly on Indian pepper. They were dubbed "Pfeffersäcke" – moneybags with extra pepper. So the perennial pepperweed is an example of how people in earlier centuries found canny solutions if they wanted their food to include a particular flavour.

Foto: © Stiftung Kloster Jerichow