Living as I do in Hampshire, the UK's main Watercress-producing area, it's a bit ironic that I should choose to write in praise of its soil-based cousin, but the fact is that Landcress is a lot more tolerant than the aquatic version and much easier to grow. Yes, I know you can grow Watercress in soil, but it much prefers running water. In Hampshire it is grown in huge beds a bit reminiscent of padi-fields, except that they are arranged in such a way that streams run through them, keeping the water moving all the time. Landcress likes moist soil, but it definitely doesn't need running water.
Last April I sowed some Landcress seeds in a plastic seed-tray. When the seedlings emerged, I progressively thinned them out so that I eventually had 12 plants.
I grew them on in the seed-tray for quite a long time - longer than I should have done, really. To be honest, I hadn't thought enough about where they were going to live, and at the time when they were ready for planting out there just wasn't any space left.
It was soon after the picture above was taken that I started cropping the Landcress. It has a pleasantly peppery flavour and you don't need a lot of it - just a few leaves in amongst other salad ingredients. And of course you should pick individual leaves, not the whole plant.
|Landcress with Rocket and Lettuce "Romana Rossa"|
Against all the odds, this tiny patch of cress continued to yield a small but steady crop of leaves for the next six months or so.
During the worst of the brief but bitterly cold Winter, I covered the cress with a big cloche.
Which enabled it to survive into the Spring.
A couple of months ago, after all the other plants surrounding it had disappeared (mostly consumed by humans!), the Landcress had to go in order to make room for Broad Beans. Since the little patch of cress was still healthy and productive I hadn't the heart to just tip it into the compost bin, so I "parked" it in an old washing-up bowl.
So here it is, still soldiering on and now running to seed:
Although very small, the flowers are actually very beautiful too.
So there we are, we've come full circle. Next time I grow this plant I think I will give it its own dedicated container so that it doesn't have to live such a nomadic life!