Garden Cress

(Lepidium sativum)

Garden Cress is sometimes referred to as garden pepper cress or pepperwort cress. The references to pepper are appropriate as cress has a radish-like, peppery flavor. There is also a curled leaf variety, which is sometimes referred to as curly cress. Please note though, garden cress should not be confused with watercress aka yellowcress (Nasturtium officinale).

Care and Cultivation

Cress is a reseeding annual, which can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Its seeds are light-germinating, sprouting within 2 to 4 days. Direct seed in early spring or late summer through fall. If you wish to have a continual supply, sow seed every eight days.

Cress is also suitable as a groundcover, and can also be grown year around on a windowsill in pots, bowls, boxes, or flat plates where it will often produce a more mild and pleasing flavor.

Soil is not that important, and sand, peat, and compost are all suitable. Water well; seeds and plants should be kept moist.

“Cress is not suitable for growing among other plants as the presence of its sharp mustard oil will interfere with the growth of other plants.” –Success with Herbs

“If you plant cress during the summer, the plants will shoot up flowers without making enough growth to harvest.” –All About Herbs

Cress can actually be grown without soil, by using moist paper towels or wet cotton buds. Some of you might recall doing this in grade school and it’s a fun way to introduce and involve children in the plant growing process. To do this at home, just layer and wet two paper towels and set them on a plate. Sprinkle the cress seeds on the wet paper towels and place plate in a light window, preferably a north-facing window. Check daily to make sure the paper towels are kept moist. In about three days, the plants should be about ½” high. Continue to keep the paper moist and when they reach 3″ to 4″, trim with scissors and enjoy!

Harvest and Preservation

Harvest cress when young; 4″ to 6″ in height.
Use fresh; preservation is not possible.

Culinary and Other Uses

Cress is used raw and is most often found in sandwiches and salads with mixed greens. Cress is also good with cottage cheese and with eggs. It can be overpowering to other herbs, so it is generally used alone.

Recipes and Ideas

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