Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Ultimate Small Space Garden

The earliest thing I can remember growing is Mustard and Cress. This would have been when I was at Prep School, aged about 8 or 9 I think. We used to grow Mustard and Cress on sheets of blotting paper. I don't remember eating any of it -- maybe we just grew it for curiosity's sake! (or as a means of supplementing the atrocious diet that we were fed...)

More recently I have grown similar things in a similar way, and I have definitely eaten the results. Mustard and Cress and other "Microgreens" can be used as a healthy, nutritious and delectable addition to any salad; as a sandwich ingredient (cress and hard-boiled egg is a traditional British favourite); or as a garnish for practically any meat, fish or vegetarian dish. It is alleged that seedlings harvested as Microgreens are exceptionally high in nutrients; on a weight-for-weight basis they are probably about the most nutrient-efficient foods you can get.

You can use lots of different types of seed, not just Mustard and Cress. Rocket (Aragula) works well, as does Basil, Broccoli and indeed practically any member of the brassica family. Using seeds this way could be expensive, when you consider that you can buy a pack of "Cress" [normally Rape] from the supermarket for about 25p, so you should perhaps try to find ways in which to be more economical. You can often buy suitable seeds in much larger packs than those which you would normally get if you were going to grow the plants conventionally. For instance this 120g (4.23oz) pack of Cress seeds from Dobies, and this 30g pack of Rocket from Johnsons (It is actually an Italian product re-packaged for the UK market).

This is how I grow mine:

Line an old margarine tub with a couple of layers of kitchen paper. You could also use cotton wool, or even compost.

Moisten the paper, without making it too wet.
Sprinkle the seeds onto the moist paper, quite thickly.
The next picture shows tubs of Cress and Rocket, sowed at the same time. Rocket on the left, Cress on the right.

Set the tub aside somewhere fairly warm and light -- e.g. the kitchen windowsill.
In theory you should initially put the seeds somewhere dark, and only bring them into the light once they have germinated, but I find this both unnecessary and impractical, because you have to keep remembering to look to see if they have germinated, and I'm not good at that, so I don't bother. ["Out of Sight = Out of Mind," and all that!]

Each day, check that the kitchen paper is still moist. Never let it dry out.
After a day or two, depending on the type of seed, the seeds will germinate.

In the next picture you can see that little white shoots have emerged from the seeds. My cress germinated slightly quicker than the rocket.

From this point onwards, carefully rinse the tub of seed(ling)s once a day in lukewarm water.
After rinsing, ensure that the kitchen paper is moist but not wet.
The seedlings will grow very rapidly, and will be ready to eat within about a week.

6 days after sowing

6 days after sowing

When the seedlings are about 2 inches (5cm) tall, harvest then by cutting them off close to their bases with a pair of scissors.

The finished item (Cress only the Rocket is a day or so behind...)

You may end up with a few of the brown seed husks in amongst the sprouts, but I wouldn't worry about them -- just remember the added fibre they contribute!


  1. Thank you for visiting my blog, and for your comment :)
    It's so nice to have found your blog too. I enjoyed reading this post. I sow cress every year around Easter time, using the same methode you mention here. Cress tastes good sprinkled over sandwitches.

    Have a great new week :)

  2. great post! i forgot that i used to grow them this way. age is so strange.

  3. Yum! I had sprouts in my salad for dinner...they were (I am ashamed to say) bought. I am going to get off my bum and grow my own.

  4. Mustard, cress ... arugula: yes, please! But I confess, I love the baby greens.
    Funny, T and I were just talking about how restaurants can't be trusted when it comes to sprouts. Just have to grow them yourself to know they're safe to eat.
    aka Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

  5. This is so cool, I would definitely like to try it. It will be a nice addition to my sandwiches.

  6. hi
    I tried sprouting gardencress seeds but they just dont seem to sprout. they get clogged by some gelatanious substance. Could you please help me out

    1. Rinsing them gently once a day with lukewarm water may help. The "gelatinous substance" is normal - I get that too (sorry, can't explain the biology of it!)


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