How to grow cress?

Cress is a plant with many benefits and usages in our everyday lives. Learn how to grow cress and add something new to your herb garden!

Cress, or garden cress, is an edible herb found and grown all over the globe. It is typically found and used in Western Europe, Egypt, western Asia, and Scandinavian regions.

Cress has roots in the old Germanic word “cresson,” which means sharp, peppery, tangy, and spicy edible herb. It can be quickly cultivated in the kitchen, on the house’s lawn, in a garden, or fields.

Check out How to Grow Lavender, How to Grow Basil and Herb Gardening for Beginners for more!

What is cress?

Different names are used in other regions for this plant (cress). Some famous names are pepper grass, poor man’s pepper, garden pepper cress, mustard cress, pepperwort, etc.

The lineage of this plant is considered to evolve from mustard and watercress, so it shares the same peppery and tangy flavor and aroma.  

What does cress look like?

The cress plant grows up to 2 feet (i.e., 24 inches or around 60cm). It’s mostly covered with numerous tiny branches at the top. The color of its flowers is whitish to pinkish.

It is categorized as an annual plant, which is a plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season and then dies.

Growing cress

Garden cress cultivation is a centuries-old practice. The demand for cress is increasing with each passing year because of its nutritional value and medicinal usage.

The increasing demand for cress created an opportunity for the cultivators to harvest this profitable short-spanned crop on large-scale cultivation for industrial business purposes, and a small scale, such as kitchen gardening.

Hydroponic cultivation suits cress production, as it requires a bit of alkaline water for its proper and fast-paced growth. Cress is available for cultivation in the market both as seeds and young live shoots.

Young live shoots are about seven to fifteen days old, around two to three inches tall, and are highly recommended for kitchen gardening.

Cuttings of stems are much more straightforward than growing seeds. They can take root in just days. You could also buy a packet from the grocery store and save some stems for growing your plants.

You can also plant seeds indoors, in pots, or on trays moistened with compost at 70-72℉ (16-18℃). Germination takes between 7-10 business days.

Types of cress

All types of cress can grow quickly from seed.

Standard gardening cress: Add the seeds to damp, non-peaty multipurpose compost. As a substitute for compost, you can use moistened paper and cotton balls. The source should be pressed into the chosen surface.

Cover the seeds and place the seeds on a windowsill. They will stay warm and moist until their shoots reach about 2in (5cm). They’ll be ready to harvest after 6-8 weeks.

Land cress: Sow the seeds in either a seed tray or a pot in multipurpose compost. Thin them at 6in (15 cm) apart. Then, pick leaves seven to ten weeks after sowing when the plants reach 3-4in (7-10cm). You can also sow directly outdoors.

Watercress: It falls within the same family but is not as closely related. It grows best in moist soil and has a more robust flavor.

Things to know about growing cress

  • It is a temperate zone crop, which means it is typically spring to autumn crop
  • In tropical areas, it grows throughout the year, but cold temperature suits it more
  • The life cycle is around 180 days
  • A patch of moist soil, an alkaline type of soil, is better.
  • To germinate the seeds, it needs plenty of sunshine. A proper place where exposure to direct sunlight is possible. 

garden cress growing in tray against black background

Germination of cress

Cress’s germination time is around forty-eight to seventy-two hours (2-3 days), at approximately 15-20℃.

When the shoot of the young cress grows around 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) tall, it is now getting set to go for harvesting. It usually takes about 10-15 days for the cress plant to grow up to 3 inches.

Growing methods for cress

Common cress is also grown on kitchen towels, tissue paper, and cotton wool. It can be grown in shallow trays, punnets, or egg boxes to make fun of “cress heads.”

The plants must take up water and anchor their roots to grow. But, plants grown from the compost will be more nutrient-rich and produce more flavor and yield.

Growing cress in pots

  • Curly cress may be grown in boxes, or pot.
  • You should sow your seeds well.
  • A container with good drainage is best. Keep the soil moist.

Growing cress in cotton wool

  • A small pot made from recycled materials, or a plastic punnet, enough cotton balls to cover the bottom of your container, and water for your cress seeds and your cotton wool will be sufficient.
  • Rinse the absorbent balls of cotton in warm water, and squeeze out excess. Then, pack them into a container.
  • Sprinkle the cress seed over it. They should be pressed onto the moistened cotton.
  • You can place the pot on a sunny windowsill or in the sun for 6-8 days to see the cress sprout.
  • If your cotton begins to dry out, make sure you moisten it. This can be done using a misting bottle or very gentle water sprays.
  • You can trim the leaves off when the cress is about 2in (5cm high).
  • This yields you one harvest. If you are looking for continuous supply, begin another batch after the first shoots appear.

How to grow cress outdoors?

Cress is best grown outside in a cool and shaded area. The bitterness that comes with direct sunlight makes cress less appealing to eat.

  • Get a hold of some cress seeds.
  • Find your cool and shady spot.
  • Assemble seeds in rows and sprinkle a few seeds in each row. They should be approximately half a cm below the surface.
  • Water the cress straight away and continue to water each day.
  • Thin your seeds when you want them to germinate.

How to care for cress?

Regularly water your seeds to keep them healthy.  Don’t forget to continue picking those tasty leaves! The more you pick the plants, the more they will produce.

Watercress requires special care that is different from standard cress. The watercress should be planted in a moist, large plastic pot (about 6-8in (15-21 cm) and kept in a tray full of fresh water.

Watercress grows year after year. However, they can become brittle as time passes. So, make sure you replace the stem cuttings with new ones. Land cress is a perennial, so plant the seeds in spring.

How to harvest cress?

Cress has a fast growth rate. It is ready to eat weeks after it has been planted. You can eat whole stalks and seeds of cress while it’s still in its early stage of seed leaf.

It’s easy to harvest the stalks: use scissors or your fingers to trim them. Once the stalks are harvested, they will grow more quickly and produce more cress.

Most crops will give you 3-5 harvests before going into seed. However, once they reach that point, they’ll begin to taste bitter.

Can cress grow after being cut?

Most cress should be cut close to the soil line when harvesting them. You may find that the cress grows back if you leave a half-inch between the soil and the seedlings.

There’s no reason why you should stop trying new things as long as there’s enough room. If everything fails, you can always try again in a few days.

Health benefits of cress plant:

  • Consuming raw cress (as a salad) is very useful for humans, as it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other dietary ingredients such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water.
  • Boiled seeds of the cress plant are used in different types of drinks by Arabs, along with honey and milk.
  • Roots of cress plants are also used sometimes as condiments.
  • Dried seeds of the cress plant are generally used as aromatic and tangy flavor seasoning.
  • Cress seeds oil, enriched in oleic, linoleic, and uric acid, is often used in oriental dishes.
  • Cress plant is beneficial for conditions such as cough, asthma, hyperactive airways disorder, vitamin C deficiency, and weak immune system.
  • Helps with fluid retention (dehydration issues) and deficiency of antioxidants in a body.
  • Contains vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
  • In minerals, it contains potassium and magnesium.

Common dietary usages of cress

  • Cress is used in food items, such as salads, sandwiches, soups, and burgers.
  • Its fresh and dried seeds are used in different recipes and dishes for seasoning and garnishing.
  • Has medicinal benefits.
  • It is enriched in dietary nutrients such as minerals and salts, vitamins, carbohydrates, protein, fats, and many beneficial acids.

Portion of cress (close-up shot) on rustic wooden background

Precautions to consider with cress

Following are the general conditions where it is better to avoid the usage of cress:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Pregnancy
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Diabetes (sugar intake issues)
  • Decreased potassium levels
  • Major surgery

Other commercial uses of cress plant

  • The cress plant is used in lighting and soaps.
  • Cress seeds are natural insect repellents.
  • The cosmetic industry uses cress extracts, specifically in skincare care products, such as skin conditioners.
  • The cress plant is widely used in school and college laboratories for experimental studies.
  • Cress plants add value to kitchen gardening.

Potential pests & diseases

There are no specific pest or disease issues in cress plant cultivation. You won’t have to worry about flea beetles if you grow them outside.

These tiny, black beetles jump off the compost’s surface. They eat young plants and make small holes in the leaf.

Clear away any debris that could cause problems for the critters. You can also spray natural pyrethrum to treat the problem.

The garden and environment should allow birds and frogs to visit your garden and eat them or be more relaxed about a few holes.

Cress can lead to plants becoming too dry and sown. It is important to water plants regularly and keeps them cool.

Final thoughts on how to grow cress:

The cress plant is a wonder and miraculous plant, which is well known for its health benefits. There aren’t any well-known diseases or pests common to this crop, so it is a pretty safe and healthy agricultural move.

Gardening and cultivation of the cress plant are in practice worldwide these days. Its uses, health benefits, medicinal usages, and last but not least, its nutritional value add worth to its cultivation for the betterment of humans throughout the globe.

Other gardening articles:

  1. How to Start Organic Farming
  2. Benefits of Gardening
  3. How To Keep Basil Alive
  4. How To Grow Green Onion
  5. Easy Fruits And Vegetables To Grow
  6. How To Grow Lettuce
  7. How To Grow Kale

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