Field Pennycress With Peppery Seeds

Weeds crop up in many places, especially where the soil has been disturbed. Any gardener can attest to that. Among the weeds that appear along roads and in fields are several members of the mustard family, such as Field Pennycress and Field Peppergrass.

Field Pennycress, Thlaspi arvense, an alien to America, can be found in dry, cleared woods, in waste areas, at the roadside and in fields. Places where the soil has been disturbed are likely habitats for this foot and a half tall weed.

Mature plant of Field Pennycress showing many developing seed pods.

Mature plant of Field Pennycress showing many developing seed pods. Photo taken 13 May 2011.

These plants get started early enough that they can complete their life cycle before the end of Spring. Basal rosettes will overwinter from the previous autumn, which makes this plant a biennial. Seeds are developed as early as May, but individual plants can be found growing and producing seeds throughout the growing season.

Seed pods are flat, circular “pennies” with a definite notch at the top. This notch differentiates field pennycress from other similar seed-producing mustards.

Developing seed pods are still green.

Developing seed pods are still green. Note the definite notch at the top of each seed pod that identifies this plant as Field Pennycress. Photo taken 13 May 2011.

Leaves are toothed and clasp the stem in Field Pennycress.

Leaves are toothed and clasp the stem in Field Pennycress. Photo taken 13 May 2011.

Flowers of four small white petals.

Flowers of four small white petals are a hallmark character of a member of the Mustard family, Cruciferae, as in this field pennycress. Photo taken 9 June 2011.

As the seed pods dry out the seeds can be seen through the thinning pods, especially when held up to the light.

The small brown field pennycress seeds can be seen through the translucent seed pod.

The small brown field pennycress seeds can be seen through the translucent seed pod. Photo taken 9 June 2011.

This one small plant produced a half-teaspoon of seeds. As far as seed production goes, I’m not sure if that’s a lot from just one plant. Collecting the seeds from two plants would make a teaspoon of seeds, six plants for a tablespoon, and 18 plants for a quarter of a cup.

Field pennycress seed pods split down the middle to release their 2 mm long seeds.

Field pennycress seed pods split down the middle to release their 2 mm long seeds. Photo taken 9 June 2011.

The seeds taste like a sharp mustard or peppery flavor. If you could collect a quantity of them, they could be crushed to use in a spicy homemade mustard. Or the seeds could be used in a spice grinder as a poor gal’s pepper. Or even try cooking with it whole, say in potato salad, substituting field pennycress seeds for mustard seed, or dropping some seeds into a vegetable stir-fry to add a little spicy flavor.

One thought on “Field Pennycress With Peppery Seeds”

  1. If we gave out awards here at WildeHerb one would certainly be handed to the folks at prodigalsun, where they are investigating the potential of field pennycress as a commercial seed crop for the production of biodiesel. Check out their resources page for more info on the possibilities of using these weed seeds commercially.

    We champion anyone who sees value in our natural resources. Wouldn’t it be great to develop a good-for-nothing weed into an energy source? Bravo!

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