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Garden cress

Category: Food



Introduction and description


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 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.



Lepidium sativum is an annual.  It is hardy to zone (UK) 7. It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from July to August.

The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

If left to grow, 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.  Most people, however, have never seen cress in this state as it is eaten raw much like sprouted seed is.


The origin of Garden cress is unknown, PFAF suggest Iran.  These days, it is commercially grown in England, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.



Cultivation of garden cress is practical both on 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 is very easily grown at home from seed.  A damp flannel is all that is needed as a growing base.  The seed is best kept warm and the flannel must not be left to dry out.  We used to grow cress in the airing cupboard as children.  It was once a favourite children’s task – to grow the mustard and cress for their sandwiches or for the salad used in Sunday tea.

Medicinal uses

Garden cress, known as chandrashoor, and the seeds, known as halloon in India, are commonly used in the system of Ayurvedic medicine. According to Plants for a Future, whose source was the one shown

Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement)
The leaves are antiscorbutic, diuretic and stimulant. The plant is administered in cases of asthma, cough with expectoration and bleeding piles. The root is used in the treatment of secondary syphilis and tenesmus. The seeds are galactogogue. They have been boiled with milk and used to procure an abortion, they have been applied as a poultice to pains and hurts and have also been used as an aperient.

Nutritionally cress is a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K, and a good source of minerals.

USDA Nutrients database, Garden cress, raw.  Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)


134 kJ (32 kcal)


5.5 g


4.4 g

Dietary fiber

1.1 g


2.6 g


Vitamin A equiv.


lutein zeaxanthin

(43%) 346 μg

(38%) 4150 μg

12500 μg

Thiamine (B1)

(7%) 0.08 mg

Riboflavin (B2)

(22%) 0.26 mg

Niacin (B3)

(7%) 1 mg

Pantothenic acid (B5)

(5%) 0.247 mg

Vitamin B6

(19%) 0.247 mg

Folate (B9)

(20%) 80 μg

Vitamin C

(83%) 69 mg

Vitamin E

(5%) 0.7 mg

Vitamin K

(516%) 541.9 μg



(8%) 81 mg


(10%) 1.3 mg


(11%) 38 mg


(26%) 0.553 mg


(11%) 76 mg


(13%) 606 mg


Garden cress can be added to soups, sandwiches and salads for its tangy flavour.  In England, cut cress shoots are commonly used in sandwiches with boiled eggs, mayonnaise and salt.

It is frequently used as a garnish to add a touch of pepperiness to a dish in a decorative way.

Queen Alexander's sandwich


Queen Alexandra's Sandwiches are a meal in themselves, it is described as a "classic Edwardian sandwiches with a savoury taste."Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of these is that they were looked on as a mid afternoon snack to keep you going between lunch and dinner!

First, make a mustard butter. This is just unsalted butter (left at room temperature), mixed with a mild French Mustard (say, Dijon), and lemon juice. Spread the sandwich loaf slices with the mustard butter. Next, lay thin slices of tongue onto the buttered bread.

The filling's made from chicken and mayonnaise. Poach some chicken breasts until cooked, and then mince them up. Bind them in home-made mayonnaise, and flavour it with a few drops of Tabasco sauce.

Sprinkle with a new layer of mustard and cress and season with sea salt and black pepper. As before, top off with another layer of white bread, remove the crusts carefully, and cut into fingers.

Jamie Oliver’s New potato salad with garlic mayonnaise and cress

This is very good with poached salmon

1 kg new potatoes , scrubbed

1 free-range egg yolk

1 teaspoon English mustard

600 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 squeeze lemon juice

2 punnets cress

Gently boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain well and leave to cool slightly.

Make the mayonnaise by whisking together the egg yolk and English mustard in a bowl. Then add the olive oil very gradually, drop by drop – once you’ve blended in a quarter of the oil, add the rest a little more quickly, whisking all the time. Pound the garlic with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar and add to the mayonnaise. Season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Slice the cooked potatoes in half and dress with the garlic mayonnaise. Turn the cress punnets on their sides and slice the cress stalks near the base. If the cress is a bit dirty, give it a good wash before folding into the dressed potatoes.



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