Cress (Lepidium sativum), sometimes referred to as garden cress to distinguish it from similar plants also referred to as cress (from old Germanic cresso which means sharp, spicy), is a rather fast-growing, edible herb.
Garden cress is genetically related to watercress and mustard, sharing their peppery, tangy flavor and aroma. In some regions, garden cress is known as mustard and cress, garden pepper cress, pepperwort pepper grass, or poor man's pepper.
This annual plant can reach a height of 60 cm (~24 inches), with many branches on the upper part. The white to pinkish flowers are only 2 mm (1/12 of an inch) across, clustered in branched racemes.
Garden cress in agriculture
Garden cress is commercially grown in England, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
Cultivation of garden cress is practical on both mass scales and on the individual scale. Garden cress is suitable for hydroponic cultivation and thrives in slightly alkaline water. In many local markets, the demand for hydroponically grown cress can exceed available supply, partially because cress leaves are not suitable for distribution in dried form, so they can only be partially preserved. Consumers commonly acquire cress as seeds or (in Europe) from markets as boxes of young live shoots.
Edible shoots are typically harvested in one to two weeks after planting, when they are 5–13 cm (2 - 5 inches) tall.
Cress in cookery
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||134 kJ (32 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||1.1 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Garden cress is added to soups, sandwiches and salads for its tangy flavor. It is also eaten as sprouts, and the fresh or dried seed pods can be used as a peppery seasoning (haloon). In England, cut cress shoots are commonly used in sandwiches with boiled eggs, mayonnaise and salt.
Garden cress seeds, since ancient times, have been used in local traditional medicine of India. Seeds have been shown to reduce the symptoms of asthma and improve lung function in asthmatics. The seeds have been reported as possessing a hypoglycemic property in rats and the seed mucilage is used as a substitute for gum arabic and tragacanth.
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