If you are looking for one super food to grow at home, look no further than to watercress. With more Vitamin A, VitaminB1, VitaminB3, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, potassium, and calcium (whew!) than any other veggie out there, you will end up feeling like more than just a champion green thumb. Your whole body will benefit from the healthy boost.
This easy-to-grow green is world renowned for its pepped-up peppery flavor and for its patent nutrition. Watercress has been recognized for its superior health benefits throughout time. It is currently making a renaissance of sorts in home gardens everywhere.
Watercress (Nasturtium Officinale) is from the mustard family and is an aquatic plant. It grows naturally near slow flowing water. Since most of us are not fortunate enough to have a stream in our backyards, watercress can still be a simple addition to your yard. Watercress can even be grown in a container on your kitchen table.
How to Grow and Care for Watercress
The key for a successful watercress harvest is water. If you do happen to have a fresh, moving water source in your yard, you can grow watercress in the same manner it grows naturally in the wild. Find a source for a transplant of watercress. A bunch of watercress can be found at your local farmer’s market and even in the wild.
If you select watercress from a farmer’s market, look for shoots of roots at the bottom of the stems. Place your stems in water to stimulate root growth if you need to. Watercress takes root easily. When you see roots, your watercress is ready to plant. Or, if you uproot a transplant from the wild, be sure to rinse the entire plant carefully before introducing the plant to your garden.
The roots of the watercress are fragile, so handle your transplants with care. Plant your roots gently in the wet soil around your water source. Your watercress should grow easily and proliferate well there.
To plant your watercress in containers, select two containers to stack within each other. Make sure the first container has a drainage hole. The first container will need to fit into the second, larger container or tray. The second container will provide a source of fresh water at all times.
To prepare your first pot, fill it with a rich compost soil. Purchase a fresh bunch of watercress from your local farmer’s market or even from your local grocery store. Plug a few stems of watercress with root shoots into the soil and water it well. Place this pot into the second, larger container or tray that is filled with water. The water will soak into the soil through the drainage hole of the first pot and keep the soil moist for the watercress roots to grow. Provide clean, fresh water daily.
Your water garden will produce the most watercress if you allow it several hours of morning sun each day. Allow for afternoon shade. Your outside watercress will produce tender, tasty leaves for several months. Once the outdoor plant goes to flower, the flavor will become bitter tasting and your harvest season will be over.
To harvest your watercress, snip off the leaves, but don’t disturb the roots. Cut enough to eat fresh, because watercress will not store well. If you have to store it, place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For a handy edible garden right in your kitchen, fill a glass bowl or fish tank with 2 inches of smooth rocks or pebbles. Fill the bowl with mineral water, and place a few stems of watercress among the rocks. The roots will reach down into the pebbles, and the greens will fill in over the surface of the water. Snip your greens, and enjoy!
Pests and Problems
Watercress attracts flea beetles and mustard beetles. To get rid of these pests, immerse your plant in water for an hour. The bugs will drown, and your plant won’t the mind getting dunked. You might also consider growing a few radish plants near your watercress. The radishes will attract the bugs away.
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Wendell Smith