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Land Cress - Water Me Daily And Keep Me Shady!
Member Name: Machair1
Advantages: Easy to grow and full of vitamins.
Disadvantages: Dislikes heat and too much sun and being dry.
This review is about a variety of cress which is called American Cress or Land Cress. I asked Dooyoo to list this under its own category, but they preferred me to include it here, so I thought I would explain that this is a plant which although called cress is not the sort you buy in those little punnets in supermarkets. It has long dark leaves and is not mossy like the Dooyoo photo.
Land Cress has been grown in Europe since the 17th century, and is something that I have grown successfully in my garden over the last few years. Although it can be enjoyed all year round it really comes into its own in the winter, as it prefers the climate to be wetter and shadier. I have had great success with it in the winter, but it does less well in hot summers.
If you like watercress then this plant may be of interest to you as it is similar, and it has the advantage that you do not need to grow it in water, though it does enjoy damp compost, so you have to keep it well watered, and don't be afraid to be heavy handed with the watering can.
I purchase the seeds from my favourite on-line seed supplier Nikki's Seeds, but you can purchase this from most major seed suppliers. It only costs 75p for 500 seeds and £1.45 for 2000! Nikki's seeds come with a plant label inside the packet which is a lovely touch.
Land Cress is quite easy to grow, and after sowing you allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to handle, and then you thin to 4 inches apart. The main sowing time is from March to August, and if like me you want to enjoy some over the winter then sow later too in August and September and even into October. The books will tell you to avoid October, but in my experience where I live in the South of England, August is often too hot for these seedlings, and I have had success germinating seeds and growing them to a decent size right up to mid-October. After that the daylight hours are too short for germination, but I always think the idea is to have some sturdy plants ready for the depth of winter, as these plants will provide something for your sandwiches even in December.
The plants really dislike drought and heat, so really love much of the British weather, in fact the last week has seen so much rain here in the south that they have really grown well, and I am picking leaves daily to add to salads. The taste of the leaves is like mild watercress, and what I do is to snip off individual leaves as this encourages more to grow. Don't leave them till they are old and woody, as they will be tough and hard to digest.
In the summer you must water them in the morning, because they need moisture before the hot sun dries out the roots in the afternoon. A shady spot really helps here and they will happily sit there as long as you visit them regularly to give them a soak.
Nutritionally excellent these plants have iron, calcium and many vitamins in them, and so they make a lovely addition to winter lunches, without having to shop for them. This is what I adore about growing my own salad leaves- with the right planting you can be self sufficient all year round. You can do this with a tiny cold greenhouse which I have - it only cost £20, and has enough shelves to germinate all my salad leaves. During the summer the seeds germinate quite happily outside, but in the autumn and early spring you will need this, although of course you can use an indoor windowsill. I can't as my cats take up too many of the best sun-soaked spots in the house! In addition you may need some fleece to pop over the plants when the temperature falls below freezing at night.
As a rough guide I have found that the plants are ready to pick from about 8 weeks after sowing. I pick the outer leaves as this encourages more new growth from the inside. They are best grown in pots, as they do seem to be enjoyed by slugs if I put them in the beds. Pots are easy though, as I put mine near to the house so that I do not have to go far to pick leaves which in our house are picked, washed, and eaten in the space of half an hour so they are really fresh. You can also pick them and store in the fridge and they keep very well for up to a week.
You can make a lovely soup with the leaves and it resembles watercress soup, which is one of my favourite winter warmers.
The seeds are inexpensive, and represent great value for money, especially as the plants have the ability to survive and be cropped all through the winter.
If you are interested in growing Land Cress, and in salad leaves in particular, then I must suggest my favourite book- "Salads for All Seasons" by Charles Dowding. It is a fantastic book and explains everything you need to know. This book is available from Amazon at just over £6. Land Cress is not a commonly grown plant, and his book has a section devoted to these less common greens which really help to provide year round garden produce. You won't find Land Cress in greengrocers, but growing it is easy and cheap and it forms the cornerstone of a good winter salad. I combine it with leaves of a variety of green lettuce called Parella, lambs lettuce, and winter endive which have all cropped really well this year. I really love Land Cress in a sandwich as it goes fantastically well with cheese and some rustic granary bread.
It's a great alternative to watercress and is easy to grow - full of vitamins and minerals and perfect for winter.
www.nickys-nursery.co.uk for seeds which are also available at most of the major retailers.
I will be posting this review over on Ciao with some photograhs of the plants under my user name there Violet1278.
Summary: A plant which is well worth trying for winter salads especially.