Garden cress (Lepidium sativum) is a fast-growing, edible plant botanically related to watercress and mustard and sharing their peppery, tangy flavor and aroma. In some regions garden cress is known as garden pepper cress, pepper grass or pepperwort. Garden cress is a perennial plant most typically used as a garnish or as a leaf vegetable.
Growing cress is remarkably easy. Soak cotton wool or peat moss in water and stuff it into a small pot. Sprinkle seeds on top, and keep them well watered until they start to sprout. Keep the cress in a light area, but not in direct sunlight, and keep watering.
As it matures, you can harvest the whole young cress or let it grow to a larger size so that it will develop big, peppery leaves. The cress will be usable within about five days of planting.
Garden Cress basicsVegetable (Cool Season) - Salad Greens
Also known as Peppergrass, Pepper cress, Mustard cress it is the easiest of the cresses to grow. Garden cress can be harvested in as little as two weeks after sowing. It’s peppery taste adds zing to salads, but hot weather makes this cool-season crop bitter and inedible.
Sunlight:Full sun part shade. Prefers part shade during hot summer weather.
Soil conditions:Requires well-drained soil. Prefers moist, fertile soil with high organic matter and pH 6.0 to 6.7
How to plant:Propagate by seed. Germination temperature: 55 F to 75 F. Days to emergence: 2 to 7 - In early spring when soils are cold (~45 F), germination may take two weeks. Seed can be saved 5 years.
Plant in early spring as soon as you can work the soil. Broadcast seed and cover very lightly with soil or compost. A small patch (1- to 2-feet square) provides plenty of cress. Make succession plantings every 2 to 3 weeks until weather warms. Start planting fall crops when weather cools in late summer.
Cress should be planted when the moon is in the 2nd Quarter (i.e. waxing) and in one of the following Zodiac Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Libra, Taurus
The Cress speciesCress is a blanket name for a number of related peppery greens in the mustard family. These greens are used in herb mixes, salads, and compound butter, among other things. Many cress species are very easy to grow, and they make great decorative garden plants in addition to a source of food. Greengrocers and some markets may also carry cress, although it can be extremely perishable, so it should be purchased only when it is needed.
Several different plants are considered cress, including watercress and penny cress. One species, Lepidium sativum, is more heavily cultivated than others. This cress species is also called garden cress, pepper cress, pepperwort, or garden pepper cress. As the names imply, this plant has a biting, sharp flavor which is quite distinctive and rather piquant. Some people also call Nasturtiums cress.
Nutrition and culinary uses of CressAs a general rule, all of the parts of a cress plant are edible. Most people use the leaves, since they are packed with iron, calcium, folic acid, and vitamins C and A. The stems, flowers, and seeds of the plants are also edible, however. In some cases, cooks use entire immature seedlings for a unique flavor, look, and texture. Typically, cress is used in relatively small amounts, because the peppery flavor can get overwhelming. Especially in the Old World, cress is a very common inclusion in salads and sandwiches, since the unique and zesty flavor makes a dish more lively.
Cress as a medicineGarden cress is also used as a medicine in India in the system of ayurveda. It is used to prevent postnatal complications; the seeds of this plant perform as an abarsipent (i.e. prevention of post-natal complications) when boiled with milk.
Vitamins and mineralsGarden cress is found to contain significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. The garden cress produces an orange flower suitable for decorative use and also produces fruits which, when immature, are very much like caper berries.
Preservation of CressWhen selecting cress, look for firm, evenly colored, rich green specimens. Avoid cress with any signs of slime, wilting, or discoloration. The cress can be stored under refrigeration in plastic for up to five days. To prolong the life of the cress a bit, stick the stems in a water filled glass and bag the glass, refrigerating the cress until it is needed. Leave the greens on the stems until they are ready to be used and wash the cress before use to remove residual dirt and other materials.