Watercress is an indigenous plant known for its food value since Roman times. The crop was introduced to commercial cultivation in England in 1808. Up until the 1960's it was widely grown commercially in the South West of England and transported daily to cities far and wide. One of the train routes to London becoming known as 'The Watercress Line'.
Watercress (Nasturtium officianale) is green and noted for its distinctive peppery, mustard-like flavour. It is packed full of nutrients and vitamins including vitamin C, folic acid, iron, vitamin A and calcium. It is probably best known for its traditional use as a classic ingredient for soup but can be added to any dish in place of spinach. it can also be used in a salad or added to sandwiches for the ultimate hit of fresh taste and flavour.
Contrary to popular belief, Watercress does not need to be grown in water. It will grow anywhere that is moist.
As long as your watercress plants are kept well watered they will thrive in a container using good quality compost. A Bamboo Pot and Saucer would be ideal. Keep the pot sat in water. To prevent the soil becoming stagnant flush the pots heavily with fresh water once or twice a week. Mixing charcoal with the compost will also help to keep things fresh.
Watercress can be bought as plug plants. However, growing it from seed is easier than many people imagine and well worth a try.
Outdoor crops should be sown directly into the pot you wish to grow them in during March or April. Or once average day temperatures reach 8-15°C. You should see germination within 14 days. There is no need to cover watercress seeds, they will sprout happily simply scattered on the surface of the compost.
For a constant supply of fresh leaves, further sowings can be made through spring and early summer
Micro watercress growing
You can also treat watercress as a 'micro seed' surface sowing in trays pre-saturated with water - try Microgreen Growing Mats in a Bamboo Seed Tray . Keep the trays topped up with water and harvest watercress microgreens when plants are 5cm (2") high or so.
Traditionally April and May is believed to be the best time to collect the crop, although Watercress can be harvested at anytime that the ground is not frozen.
Watercress doesn't store well and is best eaten really fresh so pick just as much as you need. If you have a surplus of fresh leaves through summer, don't let them go to waste - make soup for the freezer Rabbits and guinea pigs eat it and will enjoy this tasty treat whenever you have some to spare!