Whether grown indoors for sandwiches and salads, or in the garden for summer greens and garnishes, cress adds a distinctive peppery taste to a wide range of culinary dishes.
Often called Garden, Common or Pepper Cress, it is the kind often grown as part of mustard and cress. Ridiculously quick and easy to grow, home grown cress has particularly good flavour which is infinitively superior than shop bought. Unfortunately its reputation has been tarnished in recent years by shops selling the bland tasting Rape in place of cress.
Cress grows quickly and is just as easy to grow in containers indoors on the windowsill as in the garden. Cress can be grown on cotton wool or kitchen towel, it makes a fun and easy project for children to help them learn how plants grow. Remember when you were a child - one egg shell, filled with cotton wool and bingo! - mustard and cress is yours within a few days.
'Plain Leaf' Cress has all the attributes of the curled leaf variety but with a slightly larger, less serrated leaf pattern and a slightly stronger flavour to give variation and texture to a salad.
It is one salad ingredient you can be sure of harvesting all year round, adding flavour to salads, sandwiches and omelettes. You only need water, a little warmth and light, and this stuff will grow pretty much anywhere. You don't even need a garden.
Sowing: Seeds can be sown all year round.
Garden Cress is very easy to grow. It grows quickly and can be grown all year round indoors. Although you can sow cress outdoors in the open ground, the seedlings may be beaten down by rain or overhead watering, and may become soiled. Therefore, it is better to sow this tender, leafy crop indoors or under glass. Indoor cultivation will produce clean, undamaged plants, and it will also encourage rapid growth. To ensure a succession of crops, sow the seed once a week.
Never plant mustard and cress together if you want to eat them at the same time. Mustard grows faster than cress and so must be sown three days later for the two crops to mature at the same time.
To give an idea of the quantity of seed needed, use the following calculation. An average sized tray measuring 35 x 20 x 5cm (14 x 8 x 2in) will produce a crop of about 125gm (4oz), which should be the right amount for a family to use at one time. For spring, summer and autumn sowings, use about 15gm (3oz) of seeds. In winter germination may be less reliable, so use about 20gm (4oz).
Sow the seed in any pot or seed tray. Garden cress is not at all fussy about the growing medium, so fill the container with very fine soil, seed compost, peat, paper kitchen towel, pads of cotton wool, or pieces of flannel or hessian. Cotton wool, kitchen towel, flannel or hessian are preferable, as soil can adhere to the plants and spoil them.
Spread the growing medium in the bottom of the seed tray. Whichever medium you choose, water it thoroughly before sowing. This is important, as Garden cress should not be watered during growing to avoid the danger of damping off.
After sowing, cover the tray with black polythene or brown paper, and place it in a cold frame, under a cloche, in a greenhouse or in a warm room in your house. The temperature should be at least 10°C (50°F) at night and a maximum of 18°C (65°F) during the day. Garden cress seed should germinate in four days.
After germination, uncover the tray and place it in a good light. Try to avoid placing the tray in direct sunlight, or it may become necessary to water the plants. If this happens, use a watering can with a fine rose and give lukewarm water.
Harvest: 7 to 11 days.
Garden cress should not grow too tall or lanky before cutting. A height of 5cm (2in) is about right. In spring and autumn the cress will be ready for harvesting about eight days after sowing, in summer seven days and in winter eleven days. Simply trim with scissors, Rinse the cress before eating it and enjoy.
Cress should be used as soon as possible after cutting, as it loses its freshness and flavour quickly. Clean out your seed tray and re-sow another crop.
Lepidium sativum, Cress is native to the Middle East. It was being grown in Persia as early as 400 BC.
Garden Cress has the same pungent nip as Watercress does, with medium to dark green leaves. Garden Cress is easier to grow as it can be grown in soil and doesn't require the constant flow of water that Watercress does.
Garden Cress is a member of Brassicaceae, the cabbage family while Watercress, Nasturtium officinale is a member of the nasturtium family
The genus name, Lepidium: from the Greek lepidion, meaning ‘a little scale’, in reference to the shape of the fruit pods
The species name sativum (along with sativa and sativus) is derived from the Latin satum and means ‘that which is sown’ indicating the plant is a cultivated one, grown especially for eating. The English word 'season' derives also from satum, as 'appropriate time for sowing', through the old French 'saison'.
The English term ‘cress’, is from the Old English caerse and is akin to similar names throughout Europe such as cresson in French and crescione in Italian. These names may be derived from a common source. Latvian griezīgs meaning ‘sharp’, or from the Indo-European root gres ‘devour’, Old Norse kras ‘delicacy’, Sanskrit grasati ‘he eats’ and Greek gran ‘gnaw’.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 50 grams Average Seed Count 17,500 seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 350 to 375 seeds per gram Common Name Common or Pepper Cress Other Common Names Microleaf, Miniveg, Sprouting Seeds Other Language Names Kress Family Brassicaceae Genus Lepidium Species sativum Cultivar Plain Leaf Hardiness Hardy Annual Time to Sow All year round. Time to Harvest Seed to Sprout: 7 to 11 days.