Growing garden cress is no magic. Their spicy aroma and valuable ingredients will surely enchant many a hobby gardener.
The garden cress ( Lepidium sativum ) is probably the perfect plant to crown the start of gardening with success. The plant belonging to the cruciferous family ( Brassicaceae ) is so easy to grow that it can be grown almost anywhere and anytime. The herb, which presumably has its origin in Asia, enjoys its popularity due to its mildly spicy flavor. The short form cress is also derived from the old USA “crest” – spicy. Charlemagne once ordered their cultivation and cress seeds were found in gravesites from ancient Egypt. Despite the astonishing modesty of the cress, a few small things have to be considered to complete the cultivation of this herb with the harvest.
Cultivation of garden cress
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The annual garden herb is propagated by sowing. If the garden cress is to be sown outdoors, a sunny location is beneficial. But the cruciferous plant is also satisfied with a shady spot – then it only takes a few days longer before the harvest can take place. Sowing can be done at will. The cress doesn’t make any difference whether it is sown in rows or close together in broad seeds. However, sowing should not be done before the ice saints in mid-May, as the dainty seedlings are very sensitive to frost. In addition, the seeds need at least 15 ° C to germinate. The same applies to the sowing of garden cress: the seeds must be kept permanently moist. In addition, the sowing should not be covered with a substrate layer to protect it from drying out, as the garden cress is a so-called light germ. Cress germinates after just a few days. This means that it can still be sown outdoors in autumn and still brought to maturity.
While garden cress can only be grown outdoors during frost-free seasons, the aromatic herb can be cultivated all year round in a bright spot on the windowsill. Success is almost guaranteed, no matter where or in what you sow the cress. Cress is known to germinate in almost any substrate. Whether cotton wool, damp kitchen paper, or normal garden soil – the garden cress will germinate after a few days at room temperature. After four days it is ready to be harvested and enjoyed.
Therefore, an extension in blocks following one another is advisable. The cultivation of cress in cotton wool or other aseptic substrates should even be preferred. As easy as it is to grow, it is susceptible to attack by germs and fungi. Earthy substrates in particular usually have a large variety of different harmful pathogens. However, if you decide to cultivate garden cress in ordinary soil, the substrate should be heated in the oven before sowing. This decimates the pest pressure in the substrate.
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Fertilizing and watering the garden cress
The cultivation of garden cress is also ideal for beginners. The light germ is extremely undemanding. However, it is essential to keep the swelling seed moist during germination. The young plants also enjoy an even supply of water. You can completely ignore the supply of nutrients with garden cress. The cruciferous plant has nothing against well-fertilized soils or substrates, but this herb is also satisfied with nutrient-poor and poor soil. The lower supply of nutrients does not reduce the success of the harvest. Accordingly, there is no need for additional fertilization during the short cultivation period of the cress. However, if you want to create the best growing conditions, use a high-quality substrate such as our peat-free Plantura organic tomato and vegetable soil for growing in pots. Beds can also be topped up with the soil before planting.
Cress varieties: there are also differences here
In addition to the simple garden cress ( Lepidium sativum ), there are two well-known cress colleagues: the watercress ( Nasturtium officinale ) and the nasturtium ( Tropaeolum ). The leaves of all three types of cress are edible. However, the standard garden cress section does not have a large variety of varieties. True to the motto: The main thing is that it germinates well and has the characteristic aroma. However, greater breeding efforts can be seen in the nasturtium. Many varieties with differences in growth and flower color are available on the market.
Garden cress – harvest and storage
At a favorable temperature of around 20 ° C, the garden cress is ready to be harvested after just four days. Probably no other herb finds its way from the sowing bag to the plate faster. The small plants can simply be cut off about one centimeter above the substrate surface with scissors. Only so much should be harvested to meet current needs. However, cress should only be used until it has bloomed.
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Since cress loses its aroma within a very short time after cutting, direct use is advisable. Never wash the cress on the way from the growing bed to the plate. As a result, the garden cress loses its crisp freshness and instead becomes mushy. Unfortunately, it is not possible to preserve aromatic herbs in any form. If you still want to have cress permanently available, there is no way around sowing it several times at short intervals. If part of the cress is not harvested in time before flowering, it can be used for seed production.
Garden cress – use and ingredients
A real classic: a fresh slice of bread garnished with cheese spread and freshly harvested, spicy garden cress. Thanks to the mustard glycosides it contains, the cress gets its characteristic peppery note, which also rounds off the taste of fresh salads and many other dishes. The visual refinement of the dishes is a notable side effect. But garden cress can do much more than just be spicy and look good. The so-called cress test is a simple and quick indicator for measuring air pollution with pollutants. The growth of cress seedlings that are exposed to a polluted environment is compared with that of unpolluted seedlings. In this way, roughly conclusions can be drawn about the emissions contained in the air.
Surprisingly, the garden cress also boasts a high content of vitamin C, iron, calcium, and folic acid. If the garden cress is cultivated on the windowsill, it can be a valuable and energizing addition, especially in winter. Fresh and nutritious fruit and vegetables are often in short supply at this time of the year. Another positive effect of regular consumption of garden cress: broken bones grow together faster. This herb’s healing power has even been confirmed by studies.