Garden cress is an interesting annual plant to grow in the garden, even if little is known. It is characterized by being adaptable to different soils, has good resistance to cold, and can also be grown in pots if you garden on the balcony.
Garden cress (Lepidium sativus) is also called Agretto or English cress and is a plant from the cruciferous family or Brassicaceae, like cabbage or radish. It is an aromatic plant that does not require large surfaces, it is eaten in salads where it stands out with its spicy flavor.
It is a rustic plant, which does not require phytosanitary interventions and it is therefore very easy to grow organic garden cress.
It is excellent as a winter vegetable since it is grown perfectly in tunnels and is quite resistant to the cold, very convenient in family gardens because with graded sowing it can be eaten practically all year round. Perfect in crop rotation because it has a short cycle and allows you to optimize space in the garden.
Is garden cress the same as watercress?
The greatest contrast is that garden cress is developed established in the soil, while watercress has drifting roots that fill unreservedly in regular spring water. Despite the fact that they are comparative in flavor, garden cress is a more sensitive plant that doesn’t give a similar crunch or punch as our super plate of mixed greens.
The ideal conditions: climate and terrain
Ideal climate. The garden cress resists the cold fairly well, requires average temperatures of about 15 degrees to live, and germinates above 5 degrees, for most of the months of the year it can be cultivated, avoiding the summer months where it is very hot and getting help from the crop. protected (cold tunnel) for the winter months, especially in the vegetable gardens of northern Italy. It is also suitable for the mountains, does not like excessive sunlight, and prefers humid earth. It can also be grown on the balcony in pots without any problems.
Ground. The garden cress is adaptable and undemanding to the soil, so it can be grown almost anywhere. It prefers slightly acidic soils (pH between 6 and 7) and is rich in organic matter. Like many other vegetables, it fears the stagnation of water. The cultivation of the soil is done traditionally, with a medium depth digging so that the earth is draining and a well-loosened seedbed leveled with a rake. Fertilization is optional, as the plant is undemanding.
Sowing period. Under tunnels, garden cress can also be sown in January, from the end of February it also grows in open fields. You can continue sowing, perhaps in a scaled way in the family garden, until the end of May and resume at the end of August, in order to avoid the hottest periods of the plant. From mid-September, it is sown for another month under protection.
A sixth of the implant. Even if it is possible to spread it, it is always advisable to plant it in rows, so as to be able to weed comfortably the weeds. The rows are spaced 10-15 cm from each other, on the row the seeds are placed close to each other buried with just a veil of earth above. You can use non-woven fabric to promote germination in the winter months, the cress germinates quickly so there is no need to plant it in a seedbed. Instead, it can be grown entirely in pots.
Growing garden cress
Cultivation. It is necessary to keep the weeds sown flower beds clean, fortunately, thanks to the short crop cycle it is an undemanding job. Garden cress grows well in tunnels and also in pots on the balcony.
Irrigation. Garden cress needs frequent irrigation, even if not a lot of water, during sowing. Then it is not particularly demanding.
Rotations and associations. This little-known vegetable is interesting because it has a short vegetative cycle (between 20 days and two months) making it perfect as a second crop. Before and after the cress it is better to avoid other plants of the cruciferous family for one or two years.
Collect and eat garden cress
Collection and consumption. The cress is harvested with scissors or a knife, cutting the leaves as for other cutting salads, the leaves are ready for harvesting when they are between 5 and 10 cm high. It can be harvested until it blossoms. It is eaten fresh, alone or in salads with lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, or other fresh vegetables. It can also be put on meat or mixed with fresh cheeses as an aromatic herb, it gives a characteristic spicy and sour taste with a strong personality. If it is cooked it loses its taste, which is why it is preferable to use cress in the kitchen that is always fresh.
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