In season through late spring, upland cress is similar in appearance to its better-known cousin, watercress, but boasts a deeper pungency that would be a shame to miss. A member of the mustard family, upland cress packs a sharp, peppery heat more akin in flavor to horseradish than the tea sandwich staple.
Below the Mason Dixon line, upland cress is known as “creasy greens” or “creasies,” and when stewed with ham hocks, is as loved a dish as black-eyed peas or cornbread. Traditionally gathered by foragers in the Appalachian Mountains who started looking out for the hearty winter leaves while there was still snow on the ground, the leaves were believed to have medicinal benefits and used in many folk recipes to help heal wounds. Those claims may not be entirely far-fetched as the cress is indeed rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and calcium.
For the simplest preparation, use upland cress the same way you would watercress. Left raw, the leaves can be chopped and mixed into a sald, tucked into a sandwich, or strewn over broiled fish as a garnish. Use a food processor to blend a handful of upland cress with a cup of Greek yogurt and a garlic clove or two for a lively accompaniment to grilled meats. Below are two recipes that showcase upland cress at its finest!
Upland Cress Pesto
- 1 bunch Upland Cress
- 2 tablespoons pinenuts
- grated pecorino
- sea salt and ground white pepper
- sunflower oil, or any other neutral flavoured oil
Place the watercress into a processor with a drizzle of oil and pulse until roughly chopped. Add in the pinenuts and pulse again until they have are roughly chopped.
Add a heaped tablespoon of grated pecorino and another good drizzle of oil and pulse again until a paste forms – you don’t want a smooth mixture so be careful as your process.
Spoon the pesto into a bowl and taste, adjust with salt and pepper and add more grated pecorino and olive oil to form a thick slurry.
Beet and Upland Cress Salad
- 1 cup upland cress
- 2 cups salad mix
- 2 meiumd steamed beets, sliced
- ⅛ cup dried cranberries
- ⅛ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
- Balsamic vinaigrette
Lay down a bed of washed and dried cress and salad mix. Top with listed ingredients.