Forage Albuquerque

In season through

Native range:

One khardal barri plant.

Khardal barri (from Arabic: خردل بري), wild mustard, wild arugula or London rocket is an introduced mustard and abundant winter weed in the urban desert Southwest.

These leaves pack a wasabi-like bite. To some, it's an acquired taste, best used sparingly as an herb. Others love the spicy flavor and enjoy it as a salad green.

A patch of young khardal plants.
Young khardal plants.

Khardal prefers disturbed, bare soil. Plants often grow larger and taste better in areas that receive some shade. Look on the north sides of walls for plants with large, tender leaves.

Older khardal plants at the edge of a parking lot.
Older plants are still edible, but more spicy. Note the small yellow flowers starting to emerge.

During dryer winters, khardal is found mostly in places that collect runoff or receive irrigation. Following heavy rain and snow, it grows ubiquitously.

Khardal can be confused with sow thistle (Sonchus sp.) or prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), which can have similar leaf shapes. Sow thistle and prickly lettuce are edible but very bitter. They leak a white sap when cut, which khardal does not.

Khardal salad
Rinse, wash, and salad!
Khardal pesto
Use in place of basil for a spicy twist on pesto.

Khardal is native to arid parts of the Mediterranean region and Middle East. How did this desert plant gain the English name "London Rocket"? While this plant is neither native to nor well-adapted to Britain, it grew in abundance in London after the Great Fire of 1666, helped by the disturbance and perhaps the soil pH increase from ash. Its abundance was short lived, and today, it is rarely seen in the UK. While a botanical curiosity to London naturalists, the plant has never been widely consumed or used there.

Khardal's native range includes the home to the Bedouin and other Arabic speaking peoples, who have a variety of different names for and uses of this plant. We use the name خردل بري (pronounced khardal barri with a rolled double r) which simply means "wild mustard".

British imperialism, beginning with Mandatory Palestine and continuing today through Israel, has displaced people of these cultures and deprived them of foraging for traditional foods.

Chickens eating khardal barri
Chicks dig khardal barri!