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Lepidium sativum, Cress - fine curled


Dwarf habit with fine leaves, very well curled.

Can 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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