You can read 9 more articles this month
LAND CRESS is usually described as an alternative to watercress, but I think that undersells it.
It’s an excellent autumn and winter vegetable in its own right, raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked in soups and pasta sauces. Fair enough, though — it does taste a lot like watercress.
Sometimes listed in seed catalogues as American cress, it’s best sown in July or August, and is generally regarded as an easy crop.
Flea beetles and pigeons can both cause it damage, but a covering of horticultural fleece will keep off the former, while the latter can be frustrated by fleece, netting, chicken wire or cloches.
Putting cloches over the cress from autumn onwards will also improve the quality of the leaves, but it’s a very hardy plant, so they’re not a necessity.
Land cress is a brassica, so try not to site it in a patch of garden which has recently grown other members of the cabbage family, including radishes.
It will tolerate moderate shade, but for winter cropping full light is preferable. Because it’s started at what is often a dry time of year, a moist, rich soil is best. In thin, dry soils it can run to seed prematurely. It does quite well in large pots or troughs.
The small seeds can be sown directly into shallow drills in the ground, putting the rows about eight inches (20cm) apart if you’re sowing more than one.
If you can manage to sow the seeds quite thinly, the plants won’t need thinning out later. They don’t seem to suffer from a little overcrowding in any case, though an ideal spacing between the individual plants is about six inches (15cm).
A more foolproof, but also more involved method is to sow the cress into the type of cellular trays, or self-watering modules, which can be bought in garden centres. Put as few seeds as your dexterity will allow into each cell, and then plant each clump out at an each-way spacing of about eight inches (20cm) a few weeks later when the plants are growing strongly.
The great advantage of starting land cress in modules, under cover, is that it’s unlikely to have its germination prevented by drought, and that you can more easily protect it against flea beetles and birds, as well as the slugs and snails which will sometimes take an interest in the seedlings.
Keep the plants well weeded in their younger days. As they grow on, they will crowd out any weeds which survive the cooling weather. As long as the hot weather continues, land cress will also need regular watering.
Start harvesting the cress in October and continue through the winter. Take individual leaves, so as not to denude any one plant.
There won’t be much, if any, growth in winter, but what’s already there stays in good condition. In early spring the plants will start into growth again for a short time before the flowering stalks appear; they, too, are edible.
For more of Mat Coward’s writing visit www.matcoward.com.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.