Weed Warrior: Keep your eyes out for Field Pennycress

Field Pennycress, aka Stinkweed, is a controversial plant that came to North America from Eurasia in the 1700s, as a strong flavoured pot herb and has spread across the continent since.

Its notched, flat, circular, seed pods were the size and shape of a silver English penny (the size of our dime or nickel) in previous centuries, hence the name.

The young tender shoots of Pennycress are still eaten in Europe, often with enough sauce to mask the bitter garlicky bite.

Field Pennycress oils will taint the milk of dairy cows that graze on this plant; and, its oily stems and seeds can cause serious internal damage to cows, horses and pigs that eat too much Pennycress growing in pastures, or included in feed hay.

Apparently, boiling water can prevent the plant’s enzymes from producing toxic chemicals from Pennycress oil, making it safer as an animal fodder and as a food additive for humans. I don’t know about you, but this nature-boy isn’t keen on menu items that need strong-flavoured salad dressings to mask their pungent taste.

However, since Field Pennycress produces twice as much oil as soybeans, Biodiesel Companies are interested, so some American corn and soybean farmers plant Field Pennycress as a supplemental crop.

Each plant can produce 20,000 seeds that can live for decades in the soil before germinating.

If you are going to grow a plant, like Field Pennycress, that other people consider to be an invasive weed, be a good citizen and control it, so your garden herb does not spread to neighbouring properties.

This slender tap rooted plant can be pulled from loose soil, or controlled with a “little dab” of herbicide, after cutting and garbage bagging most of the Pennycress leaves and stems. Remember to wear protective latex or vinyl gloves when touching weeds.

Weed Warrior Frank

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