I always thought that you needed a stream of running water to grow your own watercress. I discovered that my friend Carol knows where wild watercress grows locally. Despite a bit of gentle pressure she refuses to divulge her secret. I’m not surprised, watercress is expensive. But if you follow Carol and discover her watercress beds, be on your metal. Dirty streams makes watercress unfit to eat. If you wouldn’t drink the water, you shouldn’t eat the watercress.
Unless you can use an entire supermarket pack within a day or so it goes floppy and has to be tossed out. Our compost bin has eaten far more watercress than we have over the past few years.
I used to envy Carol. Imagining her picking up her hat and basket. Breezing off to her secret place to pick just what she needed.
Now I grow my own.
Two years ago I discovered that Thompson and Morgan produce Watercress seeds. These are not available in many garden centres. I found them at Sctotsdales in Shelford but I discovered today that you can buy watercress seed on line direct from the Thompson and Morgan site.
Watercress seeds are quick to germinate. When they are strong plantlets, I pot them on. Five to a 12″ pot. These pots sit in old washing up bowls full of water in a shady spot. I change the water every other day or so, tossing the old water onto anything in the kitchen garden that needs a drink.
When harvesting, just trim the tops of the cress so that the stems will regenerate by producing side shoots. In this way the watercress will spread across the surface of the large pot. I think that I probably plant to many plantlets in each pot. I just want to guarantee a plentiful supply. Watercress can also be grown in the border in soggy trenches. I find the pot method works best for me as it is easier to see if they need to be topped up with water. If you are lucky your pots will give you a decent supply of fresh watercress from early summer until well into the autumn.
Watercress is packed with vitamins (A, C and K). It is a good source of iron and calcium and is full of beneficial glucosinates.
Always wash your watercress well. If you cultivate it in pots in your garden you probably are safe but watercress grown in running water can attract the liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica). This is rare. I saw it first on a returned plate in a London restaurant. We saw the fluke recently in a supermarket pack. The fluke is flat, with loads of legs and you can’t miss it as it is about an inch long.
I wonder if Carol would swap her local knowledge for a pot bursting with hand reared watercress. I’d still like to savour the wild cress as I’m sure that it tastes totally different to the cultivated cress and judging from Carol’s smile it’s absolutely delicious.
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