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Lepidium sativum, Cress


The cress of 'mustard and cress'. A very easy and fast crop, it can be ready within 7 days from sowing the seed. It can also be grown outdoors as full grown plants and can provide fresh leaves for the salad bowl all year round from successional sowings.

Can also be used as a green manure.

Plants can be overwintered outdoors to provide edible leaves all year round, though they will require some protection if temperatures fall below -5°c.

This plant is cultivated in Ethiopia for the edible oil from its seed.

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils. For the best results, however, it requires a moist soil and also some shade during the summer to prevent it running straight to seed.

If you want a succession of young leaves then it is possible to sow the seed in situ every 3 weeks in succession from early spring to early autumn. Germination is very rapid, usually taking place in less than a week. When sowing seed for use in mustard and cress, the seed is soaked for about 12 hours in warm water and then placed in a humid position. Traditionally, it is sown in a tray on a thin layer of soil, or on some moist blotting paper, and the tray is placed in a warm dark place for a few days to encourage rapid and rather etiolated growth. The seedlings can then be placed in a lighter position for a couple more days to turn green before being eaten. The cress seed should be sown about 3 - 4 days before the mustard for them both to be ready at the same time.

Edible uses

Young leaves - raw or cooked. A hot cress-like flavour, it makes an excellent addition (in small quantities) to the salad bowl.

Root is used as a condiment. A hot pungent flavour, but the root is rather small and woody. The fresh or dried seedpods can be used as a pungent seasoning. The seed can be sprouted in relatively low light until the shoots are a few centimetres long and then be used in salads. They take about 7 days to be ready and have a pleasantly hot flavour.

An edible oil is obtained from the seed.


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