The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Watercress update

home growen watercressI’ve been coddling a 24 cell tray of watercress seedlings for weeks and suddenly they have put on a growth spurt and moved rapidly from dolls house sized plantlets to doll sized plants in the space of days. This week they can finally be settled in large 12″ pots and delivered to their new homes. We have a list of happy recipients that is lengthening daily.

A large pot of these (3-5 cells to a pot) should provide enough watercress all summer for 2 watercress lovers. They need to be fairly well established, flopping over the sides of the pot, before you can start harvesting. Then, as long as you just harvest the tops, the watercress stems will regenerate through side shoots until the first frosts.

I covered the absolute essentials in my post at the end of March. Since then, I have discovered a lot more. If you buy watercress from the greengrocer or supermarket and find that you have stalks with roots, these can be put in a jam jar of fresh water for the roots to develop. Plant the rooted stems in pots and place the pots in deep bowls of water (refresh daily) and grow on.

Impatient for my watercress to grow, I bought some from Tesco this week and have tossed it into my pond. This brave blogger ate watercress from his pond and has survived (although it has only been a matter of days). He did soak it in a saline solution to kill the bacteria and rinsed it well.

This evening I dropped in to see my pal Jo. I had rung her this morning desperately looking for a frozen pheasant (they are out of season) and a wooden crate to make a hay box (culinary). Always helpful, she offered both.

I mulled all day over a present that she would like and enjoy. Eventually I had the answer. A pot planted with baby watercress might be tepting. Jo produced the promised pheasant and a marvellous 1977 Warre’s Port crate. Both spot on.

During the tour of her splendid kitchen garden I mentioned that I had grown watercress from seed and would she like some. Her face lit up.
“I am addicted to watercress. I’d love a pot. Yes please.”

The reaction is generally the same. I am going to sow another 24 cell tray of watercress tomorrow. This could be the perfect present to give to friends that have well packed cellars or those who don’t drink wine .

Incidentally, Jo mentioned that commercial watercress is treated with a very weak solution of bleach (do not try this at home) before being rinsed and packed. Danny was horrified when I touched on this over supper (luckily we were not eating watercress at the time).
“I’m never going to eat commercially grown watercress again. Please plant more seeds tomorrow.”

The bleaching treatment must be safe. But it does sound nasty and it has put me off too.

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  1. Guys please please please think before you write! I grow watercress on a commercial scale and am worried by these sorts of comments.

    1. the “liver fluke” you saw in a london resturant would most likely to have been a midge larvae- these are harmless non-biting mosquito like midges that feed on the detritus at the bottom of a cress bed. They are harmless, mostly get washed off during preparation and you could eat bucket loads without any ill effect!

    2. Watercress takes most of its nutrients from the water it lives in. Any stagnant water (like a pond) can have high levels of harmful micro-bacteria in it, do you really want to be eating this?? many people have asked me about growing in thier pond. i have always told them the same thing….if you want to, fine PLEASE COOK IT!!!!

    3. The NFU code of practise ensures that all commercial watercress be grown in potable (drinking quality) water only. All of ours is fed by artisian spring water which is regularly tested. Any wild watercress can carry the risk of river fluke, near the source or not from animal effluent. PLEASE DON’T RISK IT, if you do, golden rule COOK IT.

    4. bleach? Come on guys please read up before you listen to dinner party gossip…..

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