Cress is a traditional sprouting crop which many people grow in containers on a windowsill, often on paper. Cultivation and harvesting is virtually the same as for mustard. Broadleaf or curly cress (Lepidium sativum) and upland cress (Barbarea verna) are easier to grow than watercress (Nasturtium officinale), which requires very moist soil at all times.
Cress is the best grown either in spring or fall, as it runs to seed quickly and does not relish hot weather; the plants should be kept well watered, especially in dry weather. Land, or American cress is a good alternative to watercress and has a similar flavor.
Cress grows quickly and is just as easy to grow in containers indoors on the windowsill as in the garden. Cress is suitable for a spot in your herb garden, but ensure that enough space is left for a succession of crops throughout the growing season. Cress can also be grown in containers, which are ideal for growing cress indoors year-round. When grown for sprouts, cress can be grown or sprouted on wet paper towels between two layers of plastic or in a plastic container.
Sowing. Cress seed over the surface of the soil and cover lightly with soil or compost. Seed can be sown in early spring as soon as you can work the soil or in late summer through fall. Seed sawn in July and August will provide plants in the fall. Actually, continuous crops will provide you with fresh cress all season long, but starting a crop in the middle of summer may cause the plants to produce flowers too quickly without making enough growth to harvest. Soil have to be fertile, moisture, retentive and rich.
Harvesting. Plants are ready for harvesting about eight weeks after sowing. Cut back plants halfway and they will resprout before flowering. When grown indoors purely for use as sprouts, use sprouting trays just as you would for other vegetables and herbs. The sprouting trays don’t require any soil and allow you to harvest the sprouts right at your fingertips all year long. Simply trim with scissors and rinse before eating.
Uses of cress. All varieties of cresses are abundant in vitamins and minerals, containing iron, iodine, phosphorus and sulfur, all of which the body needs. The end result is not only medicinal but also cosmetic, as the nutrients act as a natural blood purifier, clearing the complexion and bringing a clarity and sparkle to the eyes.
Cress should always be used fresh. It adds a distinctive peppery taste to a wide range of culinary dishes. Cress is inestimable in salads, sandwiches, soups and garnishes for its spicy flavor and finely curled, nutritious leaves. Cress is the perfect complement to egg dishes, including omelets and quiche.