By: Amy Grant
Cress is an all-purpose name encompassing three major cresses: watercress (Nasturtium officinale), garden cress (Lepidium sativum) and upland cress (Barbarea verna). This article is concerned with upland, or land cress plants. So what is upland cress and what other useful information can we dig up about land cress cultivation?
There are many names for upland or land cress plants. Amongst these are:
In the southeastern states, you’ll see/hear this plant referred to as:
In that region, growing upland cress can often be found growing as a weed. Although similar in taste and growth habit, land cress is much easier to grow than watercress.
The plants are cultivated for their edible, sharp tasting leaves which are small and somewhat square in shape with a slight serration of the leaf margins. Looking and tasting very much like watercress only with a stronger peppery flavor, upland cress is used in salads or in herb mixes. It can be eaten raw or cooked like other greens such as or kale. All parts of the plant are edible and rich in vitamins, iron, and calcium.
Growing upland cress is very easy, although with much confusion regarding its name. When purchasing seeds, it’s best to refer to the plant by its botanical name of Barbarea verna.
Land cress thrives in cool, moist soil and partial shade. This mustard family member bolts quickly in hot weather. It is grown in the spring and fall and is hardy through mild freezes. To ensure a continuous supply of the tender young leaves, it’s best to sow successive plantings. Since it’s hardy, covering the plants with a cloche or other protection will allow continual picking throughout the winter.
Prepare the bed for growing upland cress by removing clods, plant detritus, and weeds and rake it smooth and level. Broadcast and work into the soil prior to planting, 3 pounds (1.5 kg.) of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet (10 sq. m.). Plant the seeds only about ½ inch (1.5 cm.) deep in moist soil. Because the seeds are so small, plant them densely to be followed by thinning. Space the rows 12 inches (30.5 cm.) apart with plants spaced 3-6 inches (7.5 to 15 cm.) within the row. When the seedlings are large enough, thin them to 4 inches (10 cm.) apart.
Keep the plants well watered and wait patiently for seven to eight weeks until upland cress harvesting time. If the leaves lose their deep green hue and turn yellowish green, side dress with 6 ounces (2.5 kg.) of 10-10-10 for every 100 feet (30.5 m.) of row. Be sure to do this when the plants are dry to avoid burning them.
The leaves of upland cress can be harvested once the plant is about 4 inches (10 cm.) high. Simply pluck the leaves from the plant, leaving the stem and roots intact to form more leaves. Cutting the plant will encourage additional growth.
You may also harvest the entire plant if you desire. For prime leaves, harvest before the plant blooms or the leaves may become tough and bitter.
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Sow cress in the garden early in spring, as early as 4 or 6 before the last frost, or grow cress indoors year round. Cress is quick growing from seed it will be ready for harvest 15 to 20 days after sowing. Sow successive crops until mid summer. Sow cress again in early autumn for autumn and winter harvest.
Furthermore, is land cress healthy? Health benefits of land cress Deep green land cress is a very healthy plant to eat. It has twice the vitamin A as broccoli, and tree times the vitamin C found in oranges. It also contains vitamins B and E, iron and calcium.
Similarly, is land cress the same as watercress?
Usually sold with the roots still attached, upland cress has the same flavor and nutrient density as watercress, but its stems and leaves are thinner and more tender, like baby watercress. Watercress is from the genus Nasturtium. Upland Cress, on the other hand, is from the genus Barbarea."
How do you grow cress in Australia?
Cress - seed
Upland cress (Barbarea verna), also known as land cress or garden cress, is a biennial herb that is indigenous to Europe, Asia and Ethiopia where it has been a ideal salad plant since the 16th century. The flower stalks of this herb-like plant grows to about 12 inches to 24 inches in height. The leaves are lobed and glossy, having a delightfully zesty, spicy flavor.
This is one of the most intensely flavorful salad greens we know of. Very cold hardy, does very well in a winter cold frame or hoop house. Does not need to be in water to grow, grow as you would other greens. Popular at London’s Borough Market.
Garden cress is quite simpler to cultivate. In addition, it is also possible to grow garden cress indoors for use during the winter. The sprouts, leaves as well as the young buds are edible.
A mature Garden Cress plant produces white flowers and small seed pod, surprisingly all parts of garden cress are edible - leaves, stems, and seeds.
Garden Cress plants are heaped with nutrients including iron, folate, Vitamin C, A, E, fiber and protein and include these in your daily diet to enjoy a broad spectrum of health benefits.
Garden cress is quite simpler to cultivate. In addition, it is also possible to grow garden cress indoors for use during the winter. The sprouts, leaves as well as the young buds are edible. A mature Garden Cress plant produces white flowers and small seed pod, surprisingly all parts of garden cress are edible - leaves, stems, and seeds.
There are several types of cress:
Pests / Diseases
Pests: Cress has no serious pest problems.
Diseases: Cress has no serious disease problems.
Cut or pinch out cress tips as needed, cut-and-come-again. Begin cutting plants when they reach 3 to 4 inches tall. Plants cut back to about 1/2 inch will regrow quickly. Cress is most tender at the early seed-leaf stage harvest cress well before it matures. Sprouts can also be used fresh.
This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.
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Considered one of the oldest leaf vegetables consumed by humans, watercress is a close cousin of mustard greens, cabbage and arugula. Watercress offers lots of nutrients and health benefits, and can be used in salads, soups, sandwiches and more to add a refreshing, peppery flavor.  X Research source While considered an aquatic or semi-aquatic perennial plant that is often found near slow-moving water, you can also grow watercress in containers indoors or anywhere outdoors, as long as they are shaded from the hot afternoon sun and have plenty of water.  X Research source
Actually, the only real precaution we take with our crop each year is to make certain we allow a few plants to go to seed. Creasies herald spring's arrival by bursting into sweet-scented bouquets of golden yellow blossoms (which honeybees seem to love . . and which, when brought into the house, brighten any window and perfume the room with a heady fragrance). Long, slender seedpods form on a central stalk, and you can either let the plants sow themselves . . . or gather the seed (after allowing the nuggets to mature) and create a somewhat more orderly planting of your own.
The greens lend themselves especially well to broadcast planting in double-dug raised beds: Just scatter the seeds thinly and rake them in lightly. Or if you prefer, you can drop seeds in traditional furrows spaced one foot apart and then cover them with a quarter-inch of fine soil. It's not really necessary to pull up excess plants—creasies don't mind being crowded—but if you want to grow extra large foliage, thin the seedlings so that they are four to six inches apart.
We've found that the seeds sprout best during cool, damp weather. Ordinarily, we sow the creasies-to-be during a rainy spell in late summer or early fall . . . and by winter the plants produce harvest-sized leaves. And, if planted as soon as the ground thaws enough to be worked, Barbarea will produce a spring/summer crop, too! We gather ours by simply pinching off the outer foliage, which is quickly replaced by new growth.
And that brings me to the best part of all about old-time Tennessee creasy greens: the eating!
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 4″
Space Between Rows: 4–6″
Germination Soil Temperature: 50–60°F
Days for Germination: 5–15
Sow Indoors: Not recommended.
Sow Outdoors: 4–6 weeks before the average last frost date. In USDA Zones 8 and higher, start in fall through early winter for spring harvest. Plant more seeds every 2 weeks for a continuous supply.
Vegetative: Can be propagated by taking stem cuttings or division.
Grows best in cool, mild weather. Frost tolerant, it can be found growing wild in the humid mountains of Appalachia, and in southern climates it will survive through the winter without protection. If grown in heat, flavor will get very spicy as the plant matures, but young leaves will taste just fine.
Natural: Full sun to partial shade. In heat, provide more protection from the sun.
Artificial: Grows well under fluorescent or LED lamps, although it will also do well in a sunny windowsill. Provide 6–8 hours of light daily.
Soil: Prefers moist but well-drained sandy to loamy soil however, it is adaptable and will do well in most soil types. A pH of between 6.0 and 6.8 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Sprouts will do well on a seed tray or soilless media, including moistened paper towels.
Hydroponics: Thrives in hydroponic systems, including ebb and flow media-based systems and NFT .
Aeroponics: Thrives in aeroponic systems. In fact, cress has been grown aeroponically in space!
Water: Requires low levels of water when grown over the winter and moderate to high levels when grown in warmer seasons. The most important requirement is that the soil is kept consistently moist but not fully soaked.
Nutrients: Requires moderate levels of nutrients. Amend soil with compost before planting. If overwintering, add some fertilizer to boost growth after the danger of frosts has passed.
Pruning: Pinch plants back to promote new growth.
Mulching: Use mulch to conserve soil moisture.
Pest(s): Rarely bothered by pests.
Disease(s): Rarely susceptible to disease.
Companions: Grows well with beets, carrots, sunchoke, corn, sunflowers, pole beans, dill, lettuce, onion, spinach, tomato, nasturtium, and cilantro. Taller plants will provide it with needed shade during summertime heat.
Harvest: Sprouts are harvested by cutting at soil level about 10 days from starting seeds. Harvest leaves before plants begin to flower by cutting the outer leaves at the base of the plant. The flowers are also edible and should be eaten immediately after harvest.
Storage: Keep the leaves in the refrigerator for 2–3 days in a plastic bag or container.
Other Names: American Cress, Cassabully, Bank Cress, Black Wood Cress, Belle Isle Cress, Bermuda Cress, Early Yellowrocket, Early Wintercress, and Scurvy Cress.
Garden cress in the garden
Garden cress also called broadleaf cress–and other cresses: curly cress and watercress–are quick growing cool-weather vegetables. Sow cress in the garden early in spring, as early as 4 or 6 before the last frost, or grow cress indoors year-round. Cress is quick growing from seed it will be ready for harvest 15 to 20 days after sowing. Sow successive crops until mid-summer. Sow cress again in early autumn for autumn and winter harvest.
Description. There are several types of cress:
• Garden cress (Lepidium sativum), also called broadleaf cress, has flat, bright green leaves to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. Garden cress, a biennial, is also called peppergrass, pepper cress, and mustard cress. Golden-leafed broadleaf cress is sometimes called Australian cress. Garden cress is an annual that thrives in damp soil.
• Curly cress (Barbarea vernapraecox), also called cresson, early winter cress, or Upland cress, has finely divided leaves resembling parsley or chervil atop thin, branching stems. Curly cress is dark green and is also called curled cress, curlicress, fine curled cress, moss curled cress, and extra-curled cress. Curly cress is a biennial that thrives in damp soil.
• Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) is a trailing annual usually grown in water. Grow watercress indoors in pot set in a tray of water or along the side of a stream or watercourse. Watercress is an annual which grows in soil in gently running water.
Cresses grow easily from seed and also can be propagated from stem-pieces or cuttings. Cress will sprout on water-soaked paper towels or cotton.
Yield. Grow 1 plant of each cress per household member. Plant successive crops every 2 weeks for a continuous harvest.
Site. Plant cress in the shade or semi-shade. Grow garden cress and curly cress in moist but well-drained sandy loam. Grow watercress in a container of compost-rich, sandy soil submerged in running water. Cress prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Planting time. Cresses are cool-weather annuals. Sow cress in the garden early in spring, as early as 4 or 6 before the last frost, or grow cress indoors year-round. Cress will germinate in about 14 days at 45°F (7°C). Garden cress is quick growing from seed it will be ready for harvest 15 to 20 days after sowing. Curly cress requires 40 to 50 days to reach maturity but harvest can begin 15 days after sowing. Watercress requires 55 to 70 days to reach maturity but runner tips can be pinched off for use 15 to 20 days after sowing. Sow cress every 10 days for a continuous harvest through midsummer. Cress can become pungent and inedible in hot weather. Plant cress in late summer for an autumn and winter harvest.
Planting and spacing. Sow garden cress and curly cress seed ¼ inch (6.5mm) deep sow seed thickly in wide rows thin successful seedlings to 6 inches (15cm) apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart. Sow successive crops every 10 to 14 days. Grow watercress in submerged containers. Pinch back cress to keep it manageable.
Water and feeding. Cress requires even moisture. Do not let roots dry out. Grow watercress in gently running water. Grow cress in soil rich in aged compost.
Companion plants. Bunching onions, chives, peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen. Cress can be inter-planted with other small crops.
Care. Keep soil weed-free. Avoid growing cress in direct sun. Pinch cress back to promote new foliage.
Water cress growing in a window box
Container growing. Garden cress and curly can be grown in containers, pots, and boxes. Sow seeds thickly cress is not bothered by overcrowding. Garden cress can be grown indoors on a windowsill. Use a container with good bottom drainage. Keep the soil moist.
Pests. Cress has no serious pest problems.
Diseases. Cress has no serious disease problems.
Harvest. Cut or pinch out cress tips as needed, cut-and-come-again. Begin cutting plants when they reach 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) tall. Plants cut back to ½ inch (12mm) will quickly regrow. Cress is most tender at the early seed-leaf stage harvest cress well before it matures. Sprouts can also be used fresh.
Storing and preserving. Cress will keep in the refrigerator up to one week. Seeds can be sprouted.
Common name. Cress, garden cress, broadleaf cress, peppergrass, pepper cress, mustard cress
Botanical name. Lepidium sativum
Common name. Curly cress, cresson, early winter cress, Upland cress, curled cress, curlicress, fine curled cress, moss curled cress, extra-curled cress.
Botanical name. Barbarea vernapraecox
Common name. Watercress
Botanical name. Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum