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Grow cress for the easiest indoor salad harvest
Cress, sometimes referred to as garden cress but also broadleaf cress, peppergrass, pepper cress, mustard cress. This little fast-growing, edible herb is genetically related to watercress and mustard, sharing their peppery, tangy flavour and aroma. It’s also guaranteed to spice up your egg sandwich!
Cress is of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) a huge family of plants with four-petaled flowers; includes cabbages, broccoli and turnips. These tangy little herbs can be used in salads or as seasonings and garnishes.
This is an annual salading which is easily grown, even by those who do not possess a garden. Like it’s relative watercress, garden cress is packed with vitamin C, with one cup (50 grams) of garden cress providing a massive 35 milligrams of vitamin C. This provides nearly 60% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C! Yay!
How to Grow Cress
Cress is very easy to grow outdoors, as the space occupied is soon available for other crops making it an ideal companion plant but it is most common to grow small pots in the kitchen. Cress can be grown in large quantities out of doors from Spring. Cress has no serious pest problems or diseases, simply sprinkle the seed on the ground in a shady spot and cover with sufficient fine earth to hide it from the birds.
You can grow cress indoors all year round, it is best sown on a wet flannel or paper towels placed in a shallow dish or tray. Brighten up your kitchen by finding a pretty dish or plate to grow your cress on, I love using Blue Willow styles on china from charity shops! Cress grown this way, it is never gritty as growing cress sprouts on moist paper towels instead of soil reduces the amount of nitrates the crop absorbs, which in turn makes the sprouts taste less bitter.
Garden cress is quick growing from seed, just sprinkle the seed thinly and keep the flannel wet. It will be ready for harvest 15 to 20 days after sowing. When the cress has two leaves, cut off close to the roots. Cut fresh for each serving.
If you want to have a constant supply of garden cress, sow seeds every 10 days and you will always have fresh garden cress available. As cress is a ‘cut and come again’ herb you should be able to cut your cress four to five times before it goes to seed.
Planting cress outside
Cress may be grown in a shallow box filled with soil, and in the garden it will do well in any rich, light soil. Curled Cress is perfectly hardy, and the seeds may be broadcasted thickly every two or three weeks to preserve a succession. In the Summer Cress requires a shady position and plenty of water to produce crisp and tender growth. The crop is ready to cut for salad in from three to four weeks, and may be gathered soon as the primary or rough leaves appear, when the plants should be cut close to the surf ace of the ground. A dash of Mustard seed is usually mixed with Cress, and the two plants grown together make a first-class salading and garnish.
Common Types of Cress
• Garden cress (Lepidium sativum), Garden cress is an annual that thrives in damp soil. Also commonly called broadleaf cress, has flat, bright green leaves is also called peppergrass, pepper cress, and mustard cress. Golden-leafed broadleaf cress is sometimes called Australian cress.
• Curly cress (Barbarea vernapraecox), Curly cress is a biennial that thrives in damp soil. It is also known as cresson, has finely divided leaves resembling parsley on thin, branching stems. Curly cress is dark green and is also called curled cress, fine curled cress, moss curled cress, and extra-curled cress. Grow curly cress in moist but well-drained sandy loam. Curly cress requires 40 to 50 days to reach maturity but harvest can begin 15 days after sowing.
• Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) Watercress is an annual which grows in soil in gently running water usually along the side of a stream or watermeadows. Grow watercress in a container of compost-rich, sandy soil submerged in running water. Watercress requires 55 to 70 days to reach maturity but runner tips can be pinched off for use 15 to 20 days after sowing.
Cress Companion plants: Onions, chives, peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen. Cress can be inter-planted with other small crops.
Cress Growing Tips
- Avoid growing cress in direct sun – it likes a cool shady spot
- Sow seeds thickly; cress is not bothered by overcrowding
- Regularly pinch cress back to promote new foliage
- Also eat cress sprouts in salads – in fact the whole plant is elidable including flowers and seeds
- Keep grown plants in the fridge, cress can become pungent and inedible in hot weather
- Water every day if you are growing your cress on paper towels
- Save money by leaving a few plants for seed