Drive any road in Pennsylvania this time of year and you’re likely to see these colors off in the distance. Purple, lavender, lilac, white… many shades characterizing one plant — Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis).
I like to think of this plant as wild broccoli. It’s in the mustard family (like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.), and before these particular 4-petaled flowers open, the buds can picked and eaten like broccoli. (Broccoli consists of, after all, unopened flower buds). Dame’s rocket is slightly bitter though slightly sweet. It’s non-native to the United States, so even though it’s one of the most beautiful wildflowers this time of year (in my opinion), many people won’t mind you picking it.
Remember — the potent bitter flavor detected in wild cruciferous plants, like dame’s rocket, is attributed to certain sulfur-containing chemicals within the plants themselves, known as glucosinolates.
These compounds, along with their metabolites, help to facilitate detoxification within our bodies, especially in the processing and removal of xenobiotics (chemicals that are foreign to our bodies). Glucosinolates and their metabolites also act as anti-tumor agents.