A plant for your hot dog?

We have wild radish in the park, also fennel, why not wild mustard?  In the spring and summer the park has tons of it.  Here’s a whole little forest of it growing in the meadow below the wooded ridge on the west side of the park:

Wild Mustard

Did you miss it? That’s probably because park management mowed it to the ground a few days later.  But not to worry, it grows in many other places in the park.  It doesn’t seem very picky about microclimates.

The Latin name is Hirschfeldia incana, and it’s also called shortpod mustard, buchanweed, hoary mustard, Mediterranean mustard, and other names.  It’s a perennial, origin unknown but not California.  Calflora says it’s a weed, moderately invasive, characteristic of disturbed places (where have we heard that before!).  It’s also considered edible, but not so much the flowers as the leaves and seeds.  Native Americans ground the seeds into a mush; others dried the plant as an important winter vegetable.  It also grows wild in Sicily where people have been gathering and eating it raw or stewed for many generations (source).  However, caution!  Hirschfeldia is one of the very few known plants that can take up lead in the soil and store it in its roots and leaves.  It is being considered as a bio-cleanup plant for abandoned lead mines and other lead-polluted areas such as battery factories.  Source.  That may not be a problem in Cesar Chavez Park, where the topsoil is considered clean (unlike the garbage underneath).  But still, maybe it’s best to bring your own mustard when you have a hot dog picnic in the park.

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